CHARLES TOLLIVER — Music Inc : The Ringer (review)

CHARLES TOLLIVER — Music Inc : The Ringer album cover Album · 1969 · Post Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Steve Wyzard
BRIGHT & BRILLIANT

For your consideration, we present yet another entry in the "Should-Be-Much-Better-Known-Than-They-Are" category of jazz trumpeters. Charles Tolliver, who has played with everybody from Jackie McLean to McCoy Tyner, from Max Roach to Louis Hayes, usually performs in much larger ensembles which have helped to ensure his relative anonymity. In mid-1969 he recorded The Ringer for Black Lion Records (it's been re-issued a number of times on different labels with different covers) with his quartet Music, Inc: Stanley Cowell on piano, Steve Novosel on bass, and Jimmy Hopps on drums. This album is a stand-out performance of its time: one listen will demonstrate why it demands a much-more accessible re-issue on CD.

"Plight" opens the proceedings with a bang: Tolliver's bubbly yet brassy tone on his long solo leaps out from your speakers, so monitor your volume control carefully. He eschews the flugelhorn entirely on this album, and makes no bones about dominating the self-composed material. Only Stanley Cowell from the rest of his group receives any substantial soloing time, but he is unfortunately buried in the right-channel of this recording (typical late-60s, early-70s engineering). The epic "On the Nile" starts slowly before Jimmy Hopps' busy percussion ignites the musical engines. This track must be in the running for Tolliver's greatest moment in a recording studio: big, spacious slabs of lyrical trumpeting, one blistering, stuttering solo after another. Too hot to handle! The upbeat brilliance of the title track ends suddenly before the album's first drastic change-of-pace. "Mother Wit" begins as a moving adagio, giving Tolliver a chance to play lugubriously. Steve Novosel's bass line (buried in the left-channel) pushes the group forward to a swinging crescendo before the original tempo is once again resumed. The light-hearted closer "Spur" gives everyone a chance to strut their stuff, with Tolliver joining in last of all.

One can only hope this fabulous album will someday be rescued from the dust of oblivion. If you can find The Ringer in any format, do not hesitate to snap it up immediately. One final mystery: the name-dropping liner notes (credit: Valerie Wilmer) state that this album was Tolliver's first under his own name. Yet just one year previously, Paper Man (featuring Gary Bartz, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Joe Chambers) was released on the exact same label, and is also well worth looking for. I realize the times were different, but how could this have been missed?
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