The title certainly gets it right – as the set's one of the best (and one of the few) albums that trombonist Curtis Fuller cut in the 70s – a searingly sharp session that really shows a change from some of his Blue Note modes of the 60s! There's a current of righteous energy that moves through the set – and which maybe ties the sound more strongly to the sort of underground soul jazz work being recorded by the Black Jazz label of the period, or maybe like some of the hipper currents over at Prestige – such as Joe Henderson's albums. George Cables plays electric piano on the record – which already sets it apart from Fuller's earlier material – and the tracks are long, loose, and open – and graced with strong solo work from Bill Hardman on trumpet, Ray Moros on tenor, and Bill Washer on guitar. Yet perhaps strongest of all in shaping the record is the work of the rhythm duo Stanley Clarke on bass and Lenny White on drums – both working together here at an early point in their careers, but already hinting at the greatness to come. A very different album for Curtis Fuller.
Curtis Fuller is definitely smoking here – finding a way to fit his soulful trombone style to a sweet electric groove for the 70s – all at a level that makes the album one of his best from the decade! The drums are great – handled by Billy Higgins throughout, in a way that can be stone funky at some points, and nicely fluid at others – which Fuller matches with a combo that includes Cedar Walton on acoustic and electric piano, Bill Hardman on trumpet, Jimmy Heath on tenor and soprano, Earl Dunbar on guitar, and Mickey Bass on drums! The whole set is a wonderful step sideways for most players – a great way to reinvent their soulful styles of the 60s, but without going for any modes that are slick and commercial.
Coming a year on from the brash debut EP, Melvista, Inner City Dream features twelve tracks of swirling psych, jangly pop and punchy, crunchy glam that show off Fullers broadening sonic palette and his progression as a writer and producer.