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Charles Tolliver: Mosaic Select 20: Charles Tolliver

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In the early 1970s, trumpeter Charles Tolliver trafficked compellingly in the overlap between hard-bop and the avant-garde, leading an unconventional big band and an exploratory quartet called Music Inc. He documented both groups on his own self-sustaining label, Strata-East. This limited edition three-disc set, only available from, eschews the big band material for a pair of live quartet engagements previously heard on three Strata-East LPs, now unfortunately out of print. It’s a vital document for anyone who admires the crackling mid-to-late-’60s aesthetic of Jackie McLean, with whom Tolliver apprenticed, and Freddie Hubbard, to whom he’s reflexively compared.

The set’s first disc chronicles an evening at Slugs’ Saloon on Manhattan’s Lower East Side–May 1, 1970, to be exact. Tolliver is backed by his longtime compatriots Stanley Cowell and Cecil McBee, on piano and bass, respectively; and by the less-familiar drummer Jimmy Hopps. The vibe is intense, especially on Tolliver’s gatecrashing opener, “Drought,” which alone would justify his inclusion among the era’s standout trumpet dramatists. Abstract lyricism prevails as well, most effectively on Cowell’s “Orientale.” And on “Our Second Father,” Tolliver spells out his indebtedness to the modalities–and, one suspects, the stamina–of John Coltrane.

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