Connect (Gearbox Records)
Released July 31, 2020
JazzTimes Top 20 New Jazz Releases of 2020
New York-based trumpeter, composer and educator Charles Tolliver presents Connect, his first album in 13 years.
Recorded to tape at RAK Studios last November and engineered by Tony Platt (Bob Marley, Jazz Jamaica All Stars, Abdullah Ibrahim), the line-up features top musicians from the New York jazz scene who have collectively played with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Nancy Wilson, and Chick Corea. Forming as the Charles Tolliver All Stars, the band includes Jesse Davis on alto saxophone, Keith Brown on piano, Buster Williams on double bass, and Lenny White on drums. The album also bridges together New York and London by featuring leading British saxophonist Binker Golding on two tracks, (Binker & Moses, Moses Boyd Exodus, Zara McFarlane.)
On recording with Gearbox, Charles said:
… with both of our collective recording label expertise a recording of my touring band could and would be done. I chose to CONNECT consummate artists whose performances represent absolutely ‘THE’ Real Deal in this Artform – Lenny White, Buster Williams, Jesse Davis, Keith Brown. The excellent artistry of Binker Golding was added for some tracks by Darrel.”
1. Blue Soul 09:38
2. Emperor March 13:32
3. Copasetic 06:07
4. Suspicion 09:59
Charles Tolliver: trumpet
Jesse Davis: saxophone, alto
Keith Brown: piano
Buster Williams: bass
Lenny White: drums
Binker Golding: tenor saxophone (1, 4)
Recorded and mixed by Tony Platt
Mastered by Caspar Sutton-Jones, Darrel Sheinman
Photography by John Abbott
Producer: Darrel Sheinman
Trumpeter/composer Charles Tolliver, an important and esteemed jazz figure from the 1960’s, continues to stylistically straddling the line between post-bop and avant-garde jazz. Returning to the small ensemble format after years dedicated to big bands, he now releases his first album in 13 years. Here Tolliver presents us with four originals, old and new, which are impeccably tackled with the help of valuable sidemen. He pairs down with alto saxist Jesse Davis in the frontline and appoints Keith Brown, Buster Williams and Lenny White to the piano, bass and drum chair, respectively. Young British tenor player Binker Golding joins them on two tracks.
“Blue Soul” brings us that special vibe of the glorious 1960’s post-bop, sporting booming, primal drums, piano pedals, and horns-driven ecstasy taken to epic crescendos. Straightforward, pristine and unprocessed, this piece features unison melodies in the theme statement and disparate soloing approaches from Davis and Tolliver.
“Emperor March”, a number that gave its title to a big band album recorded live at the Blue Note in 2008, is suffused with harmonic splendor, veering effortlessly and systematically from a modal march to a Latin dance. There’s plenty of time allocated for individual statements from the frontline players and the pianist.
“Copasetic” carries the elation of the hard-bop in its dynamically accentuated melodic lines. Still, there’s a strong modal flavor accompanying the harmonic progression, with veterans Williams and White establishing a top-notch rhythmic tandem as part of their supportive foundation for rambling solos.
The bassist denotes wonderful storytelling capacities as he introduces alone the uptempo “Suspicion”, a piece also featured on Tolliver’s 2007 big band record, With Love. Spreading sheer joy while demonstrating athleticism, the group members show an innate, nearly telepathic way of communication. With plenty to discover, let yourself be sucked into a creative vortex that showcases a tantalizing bass figure occasionally matched by a low-register piano riff, an infectious Afro-Cuban rhythm, sinuous unisons, and scorching solos from both saxophonists.
Tolliver knows he doesn’t need ultra-modern aesthetics to make his music sound beautifully. With tremendous breadth and maturity, this is an album where we can reconnect with his music and rediscover his singular points of view.
Filipe Freitas (JazzTrail)