Pianist/vocalist Champian Fulton grew up with music in her home. Her father (jazz trumpeter and educator Stephen Fulton) and mother quickly recognized their daughter's interest in music at an early age. The presence of her father's musician friends, including Clark Terry and Major Holley, also served to stimulate her focus on music. She began studying piano with her grandmother at the age of five, while she later took up singing, drums, and trumpet before eventually settling on piano and vocals. The family moved to Lemars, IA, in 1994 after Stephen Fulton became director of the Clark Terry Institute for Jazz Studies. Champian participated in the summer camp jazz program there, where she met other young jazz musicians from her area and formed the Little Jazz Quintet. They would get together to perform a couple of times annually for the next few years, playing shows consisting exclusively of Terry's repertoire, including Terry's 75th birthday party.
One of Fulton's first vocal influences was Dinah Washington, especially her album For Those in Love, which she played repeatedly, while Sarah Vaughan soon became a favorite, too. She admired Nat King Cole (one of the earliest jazz artists to show equal chops on piano and vocals), while she devoured Art Tatum (to the point of taking up the challenge to transcribe some of his recordings), Red Garland, Wynton Kelly, Bud Powell, Hampton Hawes, Sonny Clark, and Thelonious Monk. After the family moved to New York in 1998, they relocated the following year to Norman, OK, where Champian continued to play with her new band while attending high school, appearing at a number of regional jazz festivals. In 2001, she began a two-year stint playing weekends at Maker's Cigar Piano Bar in Oklahoma City. After graduating as valedictorian of her high school in 2003, Fulton moved to New York to pursue a degree in jazz piano and performance at SUNY Purchase Music Conservatory, a school that appealed to her since it had 100 practice rooms with Steinway grand pianos that were available 24 hours a day. One of her favorite professors was trumpeter Jon Faddis, who taught with the wisdom of one who had been actively involved in recording and touring for decades and tailored his instruction to his students' interests.
Fulton graduated in 2006, then moved to New York City. Since then, Fulton has performed in many New York City venues, including Birdland, the Garage, Smalls, Cleopatra's Needle, and Shanghai Jazz in New Jersey, while she has played with jazz masters such as Jimmy Cobb, Frank Wess, Lou Donaldson, and Louis Hayes, among others. She recorded her debut CD in 2007 (released in 2008) with David Berger & the Sultans of Swing, an opportunity that arose after Berger was introduced to her while he was playing at Birdland. Her follow-up CD for Venus, Sometimes I'm Happy, was issued in 2009, featuring Fulton leading her trio with bassist Neal Miner and drummer Fukushi Tainaka. Her third CD, recorded in late 2009, features her father and her regular trio. Champian Fulton continues to focus on her dual role as a pianist and vocalist, though she hopes to expand her group to a quintet with two horns in the future. ~ Ken Dryden