Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
It's been said that trumpeter Charles Tolliver was singular among young jazz musicians in his determination to keep his art free of the anarchy and purposeful dissonance associated with much of the so-called free jazz.
Certainly he's unique among the new trumpeters in this regard. In his opening Thursday night of a three-day engagement at Harold's Rogue and Jar, Tolliver, 35, demonstrated why he's held in such esteem. He is technically sure, willing to try new musical approaches and is always careful to give his sidemen plenty of solo space.
The Tolliver quartet (guitarist Nathan Page, bassist Ronnie Boykins and drummer Alvin Queen) was featured in a live broadcast on radio station WPFW-FM. Starting the night with "Earl's World," a clipped modal piece that had Tolliver spraying the room with a variety of fluttering passages, the group showed that it could move in and out of many deep melodic contours.
A highlight of the first set was an unusual rendition of Thelonius Monk's "Round Midnight." Tolliver began at slow tempo, lingering over the song's inherent lyrical phrases. But soon he transformed the samba's reflective mood to a swaggering, jocular frame of mind, spitting out flurries of eighth and sixteenth notes. The effect was one of hearing the song anew.
Page's quick-fingered technique and lyrical melodic sense were very much in evidence on "Stretch," an up-tempo piece that featured Boykins in a drome-like solo.