Charles Tolliver Big Band
Tolliver played with some of the most important musicians of
our time, including Jackie McLean, Max Roach, McCo! y Tyner, Booker Ervin,
Andrew Hill, Gerald Wilson, Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, and many others. His own
ensembles have included Stanley Cowell, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Reggie
Workman, Charles McPherson, and his students from The New School, Robert Glasper
and the Strickland Brothers.
After studying at Howard University, Tolliver moved directly into the whirlwind that was New York in the 1960s. He soon formed his own group, which appeared on the New Wave in Jazz on Impulse Records, a record that awoke many to the changes occurring in the music at the time. It was this music that Tolliver wanted to document when he and Stanley Cowell formed Strata-East Records in 1971. That label produced some of the most cherished music of the 1970s, such as Billy Harpers Capra Black and Tollivers own Live at Slugs, Music Inc, and Impact. Strata-East was the most successful venture by musicians into the world of business, one that allowed them to maintain ownership of their own music and to determine how it should be presented.
In recent years Tolliver has drawn attention to some of the most important works in the history of the music by restoring and performing them. In 2009, he directed a recreation of Thelonious Monks legendary 1959 tentet performance at Town Hall. And in 2011 he reconstructed Eric Dolphys arrangements for John Coltranes Africa/Brass.
Billy Harper says of Tollivers writing: Most big bands have a traditional format, with soli that sound the way saxophone big bands may sound. . . But a lot of what Charles writes feels exactly like what you might play on the spur of the moment in a small group. I dont know if he went to church that much, but some of his things sound like heavy music from black roots in church. Thad Jones sounded that same way. The rhythm and fire is a necessary part of it. (Interview with Ted Panken, "Today is the Question" blog, March 6, 2012).