July 2007

Charles Tolliver Big Band - With Love
Blue Note 69315
Format: CD
Released: 2007

by Katherine Silkaitis

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

"Bravura" is the aptly used term in Charles Tolliver’s Blue Note bio to describe his latest venture. The album’s seven bold, brassy tracks encompass everything fantastic about listening to a big band: They are loud, surprising, energetic and completely original without becoming avant-garde.

Tolliver’s trumpet is beautiful and expressive, and his compositions -- he wrote six of the album’s seven tracks -- suit the mood of his trumpet and the other instruments perfectly. Tolliver is accompanied by five additional trumpets, along with the typical big-band instruments. He is also accompanied by more than a few recognizable names -- pianist Robert Glasper and drummer Victor Lewis, for example. Tolliver’s compositions bring out the best in them all.

The opening track, "Rejoincin’," both sets the tone for With Love and is the album’s highlight. It features a memorable, upbeat melody and enough motifs to keep it interesting but not so many to lose cohesion. The jazzed-up waltz also features a number of solos, all well executed, though those by Glaspar and Tolliver are the most memorable. "Hit the Spot," concludes the album in a manner similar to "Rejoicin.’" While it is a little edgier, with more atonal chords and less melody, it bears the same upbeat energy and thoughtful playing.

The hum and buzz of the reeds, every cymbal crash and rim shot, and every massed trumpet chord is clear. With each note, the album entices the listener further.