Charles Tolliver has just released a new album—Connect. Tolliver is a gifted composer, instrumentalist, producer and co-founder of the legendary Strata-East label. Unlike some of the Strata-East albums, which are now in serious collector territory, pricewise, Connect is readily available, sounds wonderful and won’t cost more than a standard issue record, though it is sourced from tape and wonderfully presented by Gearbox Records.
Connect consists of four tracks- starting with “Blue Soul” which begins with urgent war drums and the horns, piano and drums break into a serious groove. Buster Williams on bass, Lenny White on drums, Jesse Davis on alto sax and Keith Brown on piano play like their life depends on it. If you don’t get hooked by the first track, I’d urge you to pick another genre— this is modern jazz at its best. It’s accessible, well played and beautifully recorded.
“Emperor March” follows and is the longest track on the record and includes Binker Golding on tenor sax.
A really nice hook begins the song and allows the band to parallel the line or swing away without losing the theme. The sax work gorgeous, soloing, then a moment of silence and the other sax plays. The interplay between the other instruments—the drums, piano and bass is delicate but has the heft of real instruments in space.
The flip side also has two tracks, starting with “Copasetic.” Tolliver’s trumpet has great warmth here—he leads and the sax follows, setting up a beautiful interlude for the piano. Another great piece of writing and playing, as the full band returns. The drums sound great on this record, rim shots, cymbal work, toms all very “there.” I tend not to listen at ear shattering levels but you can give this some volume and it will energize (you and) your room.
The last track, “Suspicion,” begins with a bass solo—Buster Williams is a wonder and he shows his stuff here against dead black backgrounds- then cymbal taps, and struck piano notes tell us things are heating up—
The horns (Binker Golding appears on this track too) chime in, playing an intricate scale with excursions while that bass and the kick drum are just driving the thing forward- Tolliver weighs in, a clarion call, while the band rumbles and those horns are at it again, climbing and descending together in lockstep. I’m going to keep my eye out for other work by Binker Golding—he’s quite a player (though Mr. Davis is no slouch and works well as an ensemble player). This piece has a slight mid-Eastern vibe at times (Tolliver would probably say I’m full of it), but there’s a bit of exoticism to this piece that adds to its allure. It’s like we are in a club in Tangiers. And when everybody’s just rocking out, it all comes to a dead halt.
Cool way to end an album.
The album was released on Gearbox Records https://store.gearboxrecords.com and was recorded to tape and mastered and cut at Gearbox. This record was pressed on a slab of vinyl so heavy I thought I might need help lifting it (seriously, it was a really nice package, and surprisingly reasonable in an era when new specialty records at 100 dollars plus are becoming the norm). I got my copy quickly and cheaply courtesy of Amazon. Highly recommended.