Big Band Done Right!
James Lamperetta | Upstate, NY | 01/18/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Trumpeter Charles Tolliver is one of many great jazz players who is known to enthusiasts but for whatever reason has not garnered the wider acclaim of which he is worthy. Last year saw the tide begin to turn. Mosaic released a 3-CD Select set of his `70's work and his role on pianist Andrew Hill's celebrated return to recording for Blue Note generated renewed interest in this underappreciated veteran.
"With Love" features the trumpeter at the helm of a multi-generational big band and is his debut as a leader for Blue Note. Interestingly the disc also brings him back to the label where he made his recording debut as a sideman in 1964 on alto-saxophonist Jackie McLean's acclaimed album "It's Time."
Comprised of six original compositions as well as a sassy reading of Monk's "'Round Midnight," Tolliver's charts spotlight a meticulous attention to nuance and detail. Taking great care to accentuate the strengths of both the ensemble and the soloists, he effectively retains an inherent looseness which bolsters the group's ability to sound fresh and inspired as they navigate intricate lines and swing like mad.
Tolliver's 60's affiliation with McLean yielded four Blue Note LPs. "Right Now" was the title track to one of those albums. Recast with an extended intro, the ensemble punctuates the backdrop as the trumpeter fires off one of his many inspired solos.
Also revisited is a pair of tunes from the `70s- "Suspicion" and "Mournin' Variations." The former was written for a pianoless quartet. Here its pulsing theme gives way to Tolliver blowing over just the drums before the band joins back in and the heat once again builds. The latter is the trumpeter's adaptation of the spiritual "Singin' Wid A Sword In Ma Han, Lord" and was originally commissioned by Max Roach to be performed at Montreux in '72. It eventually appeared, complete with string section, on Tolliver's album "Impact" in '75.
All in all "With Love" is a very welcome return for a seasoned artist who still has plenty to say. Hopefully this is just the first step in what will prove to be a fruitful partnership between Tolliver and Blue Note.
This release is also the first in a new partnership between Stamford, CT. based Mosaic Records and Blue Note. It will be interesting to see what fruit this partnership yields as they move forward."
Very highly recommended
Timothy G. Niland | New Jersey, USA | 01/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Trumpeter, composer and arranger Charles Tolliver is one of the unsung heroes of modern jazz. Tolliver made his debut with Jackie McLean in the mid 1960's and ever since, he has investigated the intersection of composition and improvisation as a leader, sideman and educator. Tolliver's profile has been on the rise lately with his excellent sideman appearance on Andrew Hill's Time Lines LP and a short residency for his big band in New York. So, he really makes an appropriate choice for the first collaboration between the Blue Note and Mosaic labels in newly recorded music (they have collaborated for years on re-issues.) There are some wonderful musicians making up the band: saxophonists Billy Harper and Craig Handy, pianist Robert Glasper and drummer Victor Lewis among many others. The music is extraordinarily exciting, beginning with the blasting original chart "Rejoicin" which features an excellent solo from the leader and very good ensemble playing. The title song, "With Love" builds slowly to an explosive conclusion with the entire group whipped into a ferocious swing. Next up is a very interesting re-arrangement of Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" with Tolliver leading the way with some excellent trumpet soloing. The great tenor saxophonist Billy Harper gets an excellent solo spot on "Mournin' Variations" which Tolliver originally wrote for a Max Roach project. The music starts off in a meditative fashion before evolving into a Mingus-like holy rolling swing. The recording is rounded out with performances of the originals "Suspicion" and "Hit the Spot." The first has a bit of a different feel thanks to Tolliver's son Ched, who contributes some fine electric guitar, and the final tune is a blow out for the whole band that is nearly head spinning in its power. This is an astoundingly good progressive big band album, with great charts and superb playing. Kudos all around but especially to Blue Note and Mosaic for taking a chance on this startling music. Very highly recommended."
A great deal of charm and subtlety.
pp777 | New York, NY | 07/09/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"At first glance, "With Love" seems to be revitalising hackneyed big band jazz.
The arrangements are excellent, and the various parts of the big band move with the agility of a small group. The bright, brassy clamour is genuinely exciting.
Further listening to extended pieces like "Mourning Variations", however, suggests that something extraordinary is taking place. "With Love" connects to an even older tradition: gospel music.
Horns, rather than voices, are calling and responding, but the fervour and passion are unmistakeable.
This album, featuring a somewhat neglected figure from Blue Note's heyday, trumpeter Charles Tolliver, nails its colours to the mast from the off, with a rip-snorting, brawling opener, "Rejoicin'", full of shrieking brass and tumultuous soloing.
Thereafter, the temperature seldom drops below boiling point, even on a Tolliver arrangement of "Round Midnight" which, taken at times at a tempo approximately three times as fast as is customary, unexpectedly reveals itself as possessed of a wonderfully swinging chord sequence perfectly adaptable to the hurtling version given of it here.
There are quieter moments, notably in "Mournin' Variations", originally written (in 1972) as an orchestral suite for Max Roach, but overall, this is a band that idles in joyous exuberance mode and swiftly goes up through the gears from there.
Tolliver himself is heavily (and tellingly) featured as a bright, blowsy soloist, but pianists Stanley Cowell and Robert Glasper also shine, as do saxophonists Craig Handy and Bill Saxton.
There is, undoubtedly, a great deal of charm and subtlety about the big-band work of, say, Maria Schneider, with its pastel colours and textural delicacy, but occasionally it's great to hear a unit at full throttle, roaring and being generally rumbustious, and Tolliver's unit is a perfect example of such a band."