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Charles Tolliver: With Love

Joel Roberts By

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Charles Tolliver burst onto the scene in the '60s as a young trumpet player to be reckoned with, appearing on seminal Blue Note albums by the likes of Jackie McLean, Horace Silver and Andrew Hill. He later fronted the adventurous Music Inc. quartet and founded his own label, Strata East, with pianist Stanley Cowell, before more or less dropping off the jazz map.

But the 64-year-old Tolliver is back with a vengeance, and With Love is his first ever release as a leader for the label he contributed so much to four decades ago. And an auspicious debut it is, highlighting Tolliver's energetic trumpet work and innovative big band arrangements.

For the occasion, the Florida-born, New York City-raised Tolliver has assembled a truly all-star big band lineup, featuring a rhythm section with Cowell, a longtime associate, the young gun pianist Robert Glasper, bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Victor Lewis—and a high-octane horn section including saxophonists Billy Harper, Craig Handy and Howard Johnson.

The set list is drawn primarily from older Tolliver compositions, but the sound is anything but dated. Pieces like "Mournin' Variations, "Suspicion and especially the hard-driving "Right Now, which McLean used as the title track for his landmark 1965 date, are heard in fresh, vigorously arranged new versions that toe the line between hard bop and the avant-garde. Also noteworthy is a winning arrangement of "Round Midnight that breathes new life into the Monk classic and features some of Tolliver's most impressive solo turns.

Here's hoping we hear more often from this underrated jazz titan and his impressive big band.

Track Listing: Rejoicin

Personnel: Charles Tolliver, David Guy, Chris Albert, Keyon Harrold, David Weiss, James Zollar, trumpets; Joe Fiedler, Clark Gayton, Stafford Hunter, Jason Jackson, trombones; Aaron Johnson, bass trombone, tuba; Todd Bashore, Jimmy Cozier, Craig Handy, Billy Harper, Bil Saxton, Howard Johnson, saxophones; Stanley Cowell, Robert Glasper, piano; Cecil McBee, bass; Victor Lewis, drums.

Title: With Love | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Blue Note Records


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