Charles Tolliver founded Strata-East alongside Stanley Cowell in New York City in 1971, with the release of their Music Inc. album, when they couldn't find any major labels willing to put it out. The label was artist-led, informed in many ways by the Black Power movement of the 1960s and its focus on self-reliance, entrepreneurship and self-determination. It released over 60 albums between 1971 and 1980, setting the standard for independent jazz releases at the time. Musicians and producers would supply the label with a finished recording which was then pressed up and sold through Strata-East's distributors. The label’s radical business aesthetic gave musicians artistic control as well as ownership of copyrights.
Most of these releases were pressed in limited numbers upon their release and have been highly sought after by deep jazz aficionados since then. Luckily the trustworthy UK label Pure Pleasure has started reissuing some of these seminal releases, with extra care provided in terms of sound restoration (remastered from the original tapes, pressed on super-quiet, heavyweight vinyl and in carefully replicated sleeves). The sound is indeed pretty impressive, open and detailed, and you can feel the musicians in the room with you.
Compassion (also known as New Tolliver) is one of the latest releases that came out on the label. It was actually first released in Japan by Baystate in 1978, before being reissued by Strata for the US market in 1980. The album was recorded in Paris and produced by Yoshio Azawa, who recorded many great sessions during the 1970s including those of Archie Shepp, Billy Harper, Marion Brown, Dollar Brand and more. Trumpetist Tolliver teamed up with a small group version of his famous Music Inc collective, including Nathan Page on guitar and Alvin Queen on drums. On a post bop/modal tip, the four pieces on here are all original compositions by Tolliver and make for an especially rewarding listen, in a vein not too dissimilar from Grant Green’s Idle Moments. A real treat.