Charles Tolliver Music Inc: Live In Tokyo

Vinyl reissue of a vibrant 1973 concert in Tokyo for the trumpeter who launched and ran his own label to record music the majors dismissed


Charles Tolliver formed his group Music Inc back in 1969. He didn’t just start a new combo – he put together his own record company, Strata East, together with a musician colleague. The label produced some of the best contemporary jazz discs over the next 20 years, putting out music that the big record companies were busy trying to avoid.

This concert, which took place at the very end of his first tour of Japan in 1973 was highly successful. You can sense the ambience in Yubinchokin Hall in Japan as the music plays and the audience applaud enthusiastically between selections.

Drought and Stretch, the two extended tracks that make up Side 1, fairly crackle with musical energy. Uptempo and hard-swinging, Tolliver is a master of carefully constructed trumpet solos. He has a burnished sound which somehow manages to come across as both brassy and mellow at the same time. A pure improviser, he never is struggling for inventive phrases and fills an extended solo with a myriad of short, stabbing notes.

On Side 2 Tolliver slows down to ballad tempo on Truth, playing melodic phrases against a spare backing of just piano and bass. Effi, a 10-minute opus, begins with slow, clean trumpet lines before moving into a furious uptempo segment. This track also features a churning piano outing by Cowell and a long, well-structured bass solo from Clint Houston. The bassist is a skilled soloist who, like his leader, is never short of ideas. At one point he is playing at a ridiculously fast tempo and sounding like a flamenco guitarist.

Finally, we have what may be the most unusual version of ’Round Midnight you are ever likely to hear. For over six minutes, in an intricate, improvised solo, Tolliver makes no reference to the melody, only playing it briefly near the end. The applause erupts as the music ends.

This appears to be a highly successful concert in Japan of modern jazz in transition. This LP is made and distributed by

Drought; Stretch; Truth; Effi; Round Midnight (48.45)
Tolliver (t); Stanley Cowell (p); Clint Houston (b); Clifford Barbaro (d). Japan, 7 December 1973.
Strata East SES 19745