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The COMPASS Group > September 2011

Big-band maestro Charles Tolliver brings his trumpet to Taichung

Big-band maestro Charles Tolliver brings his trumpet to Taichung

2011 Taichung Jazz Festival Close-Up
Big-band maestro Charles Tolliver brings his trumpet to Taichung

By Douglas Habecker
Translated by Angel Pu

Among the leading international artists gracing the main stage at this year's Taichung Jazz Festival will be jazz trumpeter Charles Tolliver, who has won renown around the world over the past few decades for his tremendous talent, not only as musician but also as a band leader, composer and arranger. As his biography notes, one of the greatest affirmations of Tolliver's genius came from the legendary Dizzy Gillespie himself. When asked in a Downbeat magazine interview what trumpet players were impressing him, the man many consider the greatest jazz trumpeter of all times replied, "Charles Tolliver--I like him."

Gillespie has certainly not been alone in recognizing Tolliver's exceptional trumpet skills, which are paired with an extremely distinctive personal style that sets him apart and is strongly rooted in traditional jazz forms. In particular, his work in the big-band format has been widely recognized around the world, thanks to his extensive performances and recordings. Among his awards is Downbeat Critic's Choice for Trumpet category.

This is all the more astonishing when one considers the fact that Tolliver is completely self-taught. Born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1942, his love for music began at the age of 8, when his grandmother presented him with his first musical instrument, a cornet. Much later, he embarked on his professional musical career when he started playing with the great sax player Jackie McLean, with whom he also made his recording debut in 1964 with Blue Note Records. Over the years since then, he has played with a long list of other jazz greats, such as Roy Haynes, McCoy Tyner, Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, The Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, and Max Roach.

In 1969, he formed the innovative trumpet quartet Music Inc, which has performed widely across the globe, and a year later he founded Strata-East Records with fellow musician Stanley Cowell in an enterprise that continues to this day. Two of his well-received big-band LPs, "Music Inc & Big Band" and "Impact" were released under this label, and followed in 2007 by his Grammy-nominated (for best jazz big band) Blue Note release "With Love". His most recent recording is the March, 2009 "Emperor March", recorded live at the Blue Note New York City.

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