Thursday, May 25, 2017

Charles Tolliver / Music Inc. - 1972 - Live At Slugs Volume I

Charles Tolliver / Music Inc. 
Live At Slugs Volume I

01. Drought 9:04
02. Felicite 8:05
03. Orientale 17:32

Bass – Cecil McBee
Drums – Jimmy Hopps
Piano – Stanley Cowell
Trumpet – Charles Tolliver

Recorded: May 1, 1970

Strata East recordings are quite difficult to acquire, which is unfortunate considering their high quality. Charles Tolliver was one of the great trumpeters to emerge during the late '60s yet has always been vastly underrated. on this quartet set with pianist Stanley Cowell, bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Jimmy Hopps, Tolliver has a real chance to stretch out. The 17-minute "Orientale" is particularly memorable. The music straddles the boundary between advanced hard bop and the avant-garde and rewards repeated listenings.

Charles Tolliver is my all time favourite trumpet player in jazz. He is simply awesome has a full brassy tone and perfect technique yet is almost unheard of except amongst devoted jazz fans. His name crops up on a number of LP's as a sideman but it was with his own ensemble, Music Inc. that he really shines. Music Inc. were group set up by Tolliver and pianist Stanley Cowell to preserve acoustic jazz traditions in the seventies and as a flagship act for their own new label Strata East. The Live at Slugs' date was spread over two volumes. Volume 1 and Volume 2 features per three tracks, each penned by different members of the group.

Where have you gone, Charles Tolliver? There was such promise in the concept of Music Inc., and in Strata East, but evidently the music world's attention was elsewhere and this tremendous live set was probably heard by only a few hundred sets of ears. On the back of the record sleeve, Tolliver undersigned his mission statement: "Music Inc. was created out of the desire to assemble men able to see the necessity for survival of a heritage and an Art in the hopes that the sacrifices and high level of communication between them will eventually reach every soul." And he isn't kidding. You won't find a much higher level of communication than he, Cecil McBee, Stanley Cowell, and Jimmy Hopps engaged in on May 1, 1970 at Slugs' in New York City. This was much more than an attempt to merely 'preserve acoustic jazz' as in the stilted Marsalis vein. This was an attempt to preserve a measure of authenticity while maintaining the notion of forward-thinking, present-tense improvised music. They deserved a greater response than the lukewarm, sparse applause they received that night, and continue to deserve a far more cognizant audience for their efforts.

Through its duration, the music on Live at Slugs' is often riveting and incessantly compelling. Hopps is a great to me in this performans, but the other three players featured here are some of the all-time underrated presences in the jazz pantheon, and they play nothing short of masterfully. Always a presence on his recordings, Tolliver demonstrates tremendous range, flair, and command as a trumpeter and leader. Had he not come along at a time when pure jazz was falling out of favor, I have to believe his name (along with Woody Shaw's) would be every bit as prolific as Freddie Hubbard's or Lee Morgan's; the same holds for the always brilliant and expressive McBee on bass.

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