Selection 1: It’s Time!
Selection 2: Revillot
It was a very ’60s thing, titles made up of words spelled backwards. This track is quite obvious, Revillot, Tolliver, With others its more subtle, like Llareggub, from Stan Tracey’s Under Milk Wood suite
Charles Tolliver (trumpet) Jackie McLean (alto saxophone) Herbie Hancock (piano) Cecil McBee (bass) Roy Haynes (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, August 5, 1964
McLean had already mapped “far out” territory with a run of Blue Note titles. With It’s Time! from 1964 he retraces his steps back to bop but with the insight of further-out.
What is particularly exciting here is the conversation between Hancock and the front line. He spurs on McLean and Tolliver, poking and prodding them from all directions with melodic fragments, half started tunes, changes in direction, which they pick up and twist. It’s piano accompaniment, but not as we have known it. Roy Haynes is crackling on fire and bass stalwart Mcbee motoring powerfully to provide the rhythmic anchor, whilst Hancock’s jabbing chords step out from the rhythm section to add both harmonic exploration and a percussive driver.
Added into into this potent modal mix is the relatively new trumpet voice of Charles Tolliver, who blossomed in the later ’60s, on dates with Booker Ervin, Andrew Hill and Max Roach.
Though nominally a Mclean album, it has five strong minded voices, Hancock bouncing around all over the place, and a spotlight falling on Tolliver. The result is an energising sonic train-ride, with everything arriving musically at the right destination in time, the mid ’60s: It’s Time.
Jumping Off Point: Charles Tolliver
Tolliver, who made his Blue Note debut on It’s Time!, recorded three albums with McLean. He was noted for his fluid and lyrical trumpet voice, in contrast with the looseness of the far out tendency. Together with pianist Stanley Cowell, Tolliver went on to found the Strata-East record label, specialising in 1970s Post-Bop, Spiritual Jazz, and Afro-Jazz.
Still playing in his ’70s, he enjoyed a late-career resurgence, with explosive big-band performances, and recently played one night at Ronnie Scott’s with his Music Inc quintet, reviewed here by Guardian Jazz stalwart John Fordham.
Vinyl: BLP 4179 – mono on NY labels, VAN GELDER stamp and ears.
Both sides a van Gelder second shot, A-1 and B-1 master, and value for money with the grooves fully occupying the vinyl capacity, leaving just a small skinny trail-off.
The cover would have benefitted from stronger lamination, or been kept in its shrink for a few crucial decades, but still, a great Reid Miles graphic design, if a little grubby. Written on the back in a flowing hand, the inscription “New York August 1965” exactly one year after the recording. Nice period authentication, preferable to the YOUR NAME HERE school of writing on covers.
This McLean title had been off my radar a long while, never having seen an attainable copy in the wild, so it was a shock to walk into a London store, leaf through the “Blue Note” section expecting the usual suspects – Jimmy Smith and Stanley Turrentine – dodgy reissues and lesser titles, to find not one but two prize catches. Ouch! After months of lost auctions on ebay this is what you hope for but rarely encounter.
All part of the fun of collecting records, but the corollary is also true. I remember a sports report somewhere when a footballer was asked how he felt about being dropped from the national team. Biting back a tear, he put on a brave face and replied “Disappointed“. The manager put his arm on his shoulder. “Son, disappointment is part of football“.
It’s also part of collecting records, words worth remembering that when you next lose out. Highs and the lows go together, better than flat-lining