Charles Tolliver - With Love

Charles Tolliver Big Band
With Love

(Blue Note/Mosaic)

First Appeared in The Music Box, July 2007, Volume 14, #7

Written by John Metzger

Sat July 28, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT


Charles Tolliver has been out of sight and out of mind for the better part of 30 years, but after relaunching his Big Band to perform a series of concerts in 2003, he now has turned his attention to restoring his legacy as a composer and arranger. His opening salvo is the seven-track set With Love, and while it isnít necessarily an unqualified success, it shows that Tolliver hasnít lost his penchant for crafting relentlessly exhilarating music. The opening cut Rejoiciní sets the tone for the endeavor as trumpets, saxes, and trombones send forceful, punchy blasts of color sailing over the songís crackling, propulsive rhythm, while newcomer Robert Glasper nearly steals the show with a frantic piano solo that twists McCoy Tynerís inventive approach into knots. Glasper strikes again during Hit the Spot by sparring playfully with drummer Victor Lewis. Providing some stylistic contrast, Tolliverís longtime collaborator Stanley Cowell matches Glasperís spunk, particularly on Mourniní Variations, which fuses a hymn-like procession of flute, clarinet, and sax with the turbulent drama unleashed by the full ensemble.

Elsewhere on With Love, however, Tolliver falters. The title track, for example, seems stuck in the í70s, and his manic energy doesnít jive well with the songís relaxed, swinging groove. Likewise, his interpretation of Thelonious Monkís íRound Midnight, while intriguing, never finds a way of comfortably uniting its polarized extremes. Although Tolliverís risk-taking maneuvers are refreshing ó especially when one considers how conservative the music industry has become, regardless of genre ó they also occasionally become mired in the busyness of his arrangements. For all its flashiness, for all its explosiveness, deep down inside With Love, the emotion is missing. starstarstar

With Love is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


Copyright © 2007 The Music Box