Mosaic Select 20: Charles Tolliver on Mosaic Records


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“Musically, the question on the table for Tolliver's generation at the dawn of Strata-East's inception was deciding what parts of bebop tradition remained visible in an age set on fire by Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor and Sun Ra. As can be heard on this and his other Strata-East releases, Tolliver's Music Inc group proposed clear answers to such questions, with meaty and melodious playing that celebrated the classical virtues of swing, virtuosity and the unbridled expressionism and spontaneity that were the 60's stock-in-trade. Call it a case of eating your cake and immolating it too." -Greg Tate, original CD liner notes

Charles Tolliver emerged in 1965 as a strong and innovative trumpeter and composer. Hard bop was riding strong and welcoming adventurous new voices. After important tenures with Jackie McLean, Gerald Wilson, Max Roach and Andrew Hill, Tolliver formed his own quartet, which he dubbed Music Inc.

A quartet is a demanding setting for a trumpeter, but Tolliver was never at a loss for chops or ideas. He recorded the band live at Slug's in New York in 1970 and at a Tokyo concert in 1973 for his own Strata-East label. These have long since become collectors' items and are now being reissued with 41 minutes of unissued material from Slug's and 34 minutes from Tokyo.

Stanley Cowell is the pianist (and contributing composer) throughout. Cecil McBee and Jimmy Hopps are on the Slug's session while Clint Houston and Clifford Barbaro are on the Japanese concert. With the exception of Neal Hefti's “Repetition" and Monk's “'Round Midnight", the band's book consisted of the exceptional originals by Tolliver, Cowell and McBee.

The musicians in Music, Inc challenged each other but never left the audience behind. This was state-of-the-art hard bop played in all its diversity from harmonically dense mazes to modal open forms to gorgeous ballads. And these men could sustain interest with each other and the listener through sheer creative power.

As the music on this set proves, Tolliver's Music Inc met every challenge and then some. These live recordings from 1970 and '73 embrace hard bop in all its various approaches and epitomize the teamwork that is so essential to any successful jazz performance. And Charles's endurance is absolutely remarkable.

3 CDs - $39.00
Limited Edition: 5000 copies

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