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Charles Tolliver All Stars

Charles Tolliver All Stars

    This was Charles Tolliver’s first album as a leader. The setting is unique only because his second Freedom-Black Lion album “The Ringer” and all of his subsequent albums on Strata-East featured his quartet Music Inc. with pianist Stanley Cowell. Here he is surrounded in quartet and quintet formats with a truly stellar cast of the leading players on the New York jazz scene.

    Charles plays the role of leader, composer and trumpeter. But it is surely that last role that deserves the most attention. The trumpet is a brass instrument that leans toward a hard sound and staccato phrasing. Yet Tolliver is the quintessence of fluidity. While it may be undeniable that he has learned from his musical heritage and past trumpet masters, a trumpeter of such flow, tone, control, lyricism and creativity is, by definition, a major musician.

    Charles Tolliver first came to the professional jazz scene in the mid-sixties, when he first met Jackie McLean. Under McLean’s leadership, he played on a number of Blue Note record sessions, some of which have yet to be released. He contributed original tunes to many of those sessions.

    Within a couple of years, Tolliver was a well known figure in New York circles, playing and/or recording with Booker Ervin, Archie Shepp, Andrew Hill, Roy Ayers, Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, Willie Bobo, Gerald Wilson, McCoy Tyner, Hank Mobley, and many others. His compositions were getting recorded by many artists. He gained his greatest recognition during a two year stint with the Max Roach quintet that also included Gary Bartz and Stanley Cowell.

    There is also a previously unreleased bonus track of the song, "Repetition", recorded by Charles for this LP which will be included on this new release of the album. This song was originally made famous by Charlie Parker's LP With Strings.

    This album is certainly an important and lasting document in light of the musicians involved and in light of its unique context for Charles Tolliver. But basically, it is just a great album to listen to.

    Michael Cuscuna.

    Clifford Jordan Quartet

    Glass Bead Games

      Fifth part of the Strata-East Dolphy Series, Glass Bead Games is arguably the crown jewel of the Strata East movement, an amorphous genre that treads an unusual path between post-bop, 70’s avant-garde and spiritual jazz, with a groove.

      Glass Bead Games is full of revelations at many levels. First, the decade of the 1970s did produce genuinely creative, "human" new music flowing from the jazz mainstream; second, Bill Lee was more than Spike's dad: he was a superlative bassist, a team player of the first order, a powerful catalyst who, if anything, deserves to be better known than his son; third, Billy Higgins was, as so many musicians insist, a once-in-a-lifetime drummer—the bellows inspiriting the collective flame.

      Most importantly, Clifford Jordan was an artist of the first order, his playing so effortless and unforced, unselfconscious and focused, mature and wise that, at a time when altissimo fury was all the rage, it's small wonder his authentic voice frequently went unheard. His musical rhetoric is so personally expressive, its substance so compelling, the listener couldn't care less about the extraordinary technique required to convey its captivating message. Compared to some of his more acclaimed peers he's a less aggressive yet paradoxically more directive and shaping influence. The climaxes, rather than spelled out, are merely suggested, registering with deep and lasting impact on the listener. It all comes down to learning the language, those precious little beads. Not every player, including Jordan or the listener, can use it like Shakespeare, but all can learn to read Shakespeare and understand its principles of arbitrariness and serendipity, of invariance and transformation.

      Jordan, no less than Shakespeare, requires a like-minded cast of players—in this case four musicians of such redoubtable proficiency that each remains committed to keeping the beads in play. He's not a man content with a mere musical "dialogue" with his fellow musicians nor is he about to take the initiative in pulling his troops up to his level. Instead he begins to tell a musical story that's so compelling his three comrades are inspired equally to contribute to a collaborative narrative. This is brilliant music-making by a Coltrane- influenced successor who feels no obligation to mime the predecessor. It may be the most significant saxophone performance on record since Coltrane and, providing the listener stays with it for any length of time, the most deeply satisfying. Jordan's game—so effortless, unforced, and "level"—erases distinctions between composed and improvised, soloist and ensemble, narrator and narrative, the dancer and the dance. It seems incapable of wearing out its welcome.

      By Samuel Chell/All About Jazz.


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