Tia Fuller, fierce woman in jazz, takes shot at 1st Grammy

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This Jan. 6, 2019 photo shows saxophonist Tia Fuller posing in Piscataway, New Jersey. (Photo by Brian Ach/Invision/AP)

New York (AP) — Saxophonist Tia Fuller was crying in bed. And praising God.

She’d just received the news that she was nominated for her first-ever Grammy Award — but it’s not just any nomination: Her inclusion in the best jazz instrumental album category is a historic moment for women because they have rarely been nominated for the coveted award throughout the Grammys’ 61-year history.

And if Fuller wins, she becomes just the second women to take home the prize.

“I feel really blessed. Anytime I think extensively about being in the category and (anything) Grammy-wise, I start tearing up,” said Fuller, this time smiling ear-to-ear with light tears of joy in her eyes. “It’s really a dream come true.

I’m realizing that dreams can become reality and everything is tangible.”

Her nominated album, “Diamond Cut,” is a smooth and striking collection that has brought the skilled performer, who once played with Ray Charles during her college years and toured with Beyonce, to the next level. The album, her fifth, was produced by another woman making critical waves in jazz, Terri Lyne Carrington. The drummer, who came to national prominence decades ago in “The Arsenio Hall Show” band, became the first female to win best jazz instrumental album at the 2014 Grammys.

Carrington describes the win as bittersweet because of the “many great female instrumentalists that weren’t nominated ever, so that was really disheartening.”

It’s one of the reasons Carrington, a three-time Grammy winner, is excited for Fuller’s success and has been a mentor to the artist.

“I feel like this record is showing her growth and her evolution,” Carrington said. “If nothing else, I believe that she’s really motivated to keep pushing herself and keep evolving into all that she can be.”

“Diamond Cut” is Fuller’s first album in six years. She’s been busy as a professor at the prestigious Berklee College of Music since 2013, and that decision to move to Boston to fulfill a lifetime dream came at a crossroads: In the same 24-hour period that Fuller was offered the teaching position, Beyonce asked Fuller to perform again with the band.

“That was the year I think they were doing the Super Bowl and she was going back out on tour,” recalled Fuller, who performed with Beyonce from 2006 to 2010.

“While I was on tour with her something came over me and spoke, ‘You have to move in faith and not fear. Don’t be afraid of what may not happen, or get attached to the artificial result of, ‘I’m playing with Beyonce,’” she said. “So the reason why that I ended up not going back is because I realized that it was time for me to move on.”

Now, in between the teaching and playing — she’s also busy dress shopping for her big day at the Grammys, taking place Feb. 10 in Los Angeles.

“I actually reached out to one of Beyonce’s stylists and he responded, so he’s going to help and connect me with some of his designers,” she said. “I’m trying to find a healthy mix between making a statement and me being me.”