Charles Tolliver is a model for autonomy and self-sufficiency in music. His work as a founder of Strata-East Records set a standard for black creative independence in the 1970s, and the label's extensive catalogue has enjoyed a renaissance as new generations discover those seminal recordings under the catch-all term of "spiritual" jazz.
Yet the trumpeter has also played well with others in a career spanning nearly 60 years. Tolliver's recording debut with saxophonist Jackie McLean on It's Time for Blue Note Records put him on the radar, and he followed with appearances on durable post-bop recordings from pianist Horace Silver, saxophonist Booker Ervin, and drummer Max Roach.
Tolliver's urgent and restive trumpet has always sounded best when set within his own harmonically advanced compositions, and he has written extensively. The catchment for that original work has been Music Inc., a group that can expand to big band format or pare to its more customary trumpet plus rhythm section.
Originally a quartet with pianist and Strata-East co-founder Stanley Cowell, Music Inc. is also recognition, by name and deed, that enterprise is an essential part of the artist's creative life. When it comes to making his music, Charles Tolliver is all business.
WRTI captured the New Charles Tolliver Music Inc. performance of "Hit The Spot" live from the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz & Performing Arts in October, 2019. Tolliver received the Living Legacy Jazz Award from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation at the Kimmel Center a day before this engagement.