My rule of thumb for finds such as these – as long as it’s reasonably priced, buy it. If you can’t – or won’t – sell it, you can always own it. I knew what it was when I saw it. And it’s something you rarely see. Really just about anything on Strata-East is tough to come by. But it’s one of those labels where it’s almost always worth buying what you find because it’s likely you’ll never see it again. And whatever it is, it’s probably pretty damn great. This is the very first record released on the label, which was actually started by two of the artists on the record. 1971. DIY, yo.
To give you a much better feel for the record than I could, I give you Jim Todd’s review for All Music Guide…
“This was the first release from Strata-East Records, the label created in 1971 by Music Inc.’s co-leaders, Charles Tolliver and Stanley Cowell. For the debut, the two lead an advanced, hard bop session of their own compositions arranged for a quartet augmented by a 13-member brass and wind orchestra. The writing has an affinity with McCoy Tyner’s modal hard bop from this same period, e.g Tyner’s “Extensions” (Blue Note). Similarly, Cowell’s playing shares with Tyner’s a powerful technique, effective use of rippling two-handed arpeggios, and an ability to make its presence felt in a large group. Jimmy Hopps (drums) and Cecil McBee (bass) round out the core quartet. Hopps’ blend of muscular drive and nuance is akin to Louis Hayes or Freddie Waits. McBee’s technical command and slabs of fat, earthy tone are captured wonderfully. The orchestra includes trumpeters Richard Williams and Virgil Jones, reed players Jimmy Heath and Clifford Jordan, and trombonists Garnett Brown and Curtis Fuller. The music moves seamlessly from trio and quartet configurations to full orchestration. The centerpiece is Tolliver’s “On the Nile,” which evokes a majestic procession of ancient Egyptian nobility sailing the broad Nile, the blue and silver waters sprayed with sunlight. Like one of the pharoah’s prized falcons, the pure tone of Tolliver’s flugel horn soars overhead buoyed by the orchestra’s rich chords. Cowell’s “Brilliant Corners” is equal to “On the Nile” in elegance and class, while his “Departure” and “Abscretions” are in a more funky vein. Tolliver’s”Ruthie’s Heart” alternates stripped-down statements from the quartet with sections of full on punch from the horns. His “Household of Saud” is the most purely hard bop of the six tracks. As the launch release for a new label, this was a bold debut. Tolliver & Cowell were presenting vital new pieces that had a direct lineage with the large-scale works of Ellington, Monk & Mingus.” – Jim Todd, All Music Guide
And, if you’re still interested, I would encourage you to check out this great interview from 2002 with both Tolliver and Cowell from the July 2002 issue of All About Jazz: New York. Really killer stuff, and excellent insight to how these guys rolled, and with whom they rolled. Tight.
And then, if you’re still interested, I would highly recommend you buy this record. Duh. Honestly, way more straight ahead than I was expecting. The playing is stellar. And beautiful. The record itself is in really great shape; I played both sides and there were no issues whatsoever. Has fantastic sound. The jacket has a small stain on the bottom left corner, a light 2″ crease and a corner ding. That said, looks pretty darn good for its age. $50.