Established by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation in 1994, the Living Legacy Jazz Award honors living American jazz masters who have contributed to the development and perpetuation of the jazz legacy in the mid-Atlantic region. The award recognizes distinguished performers who have made a special commitment to jazz education, and who have worked to impart his or her unique knowledge of the art of jazz to emerging artists.

Current Living Legacy Jazz Award Honoree

Charles Tolliver sits on concrete steps with his trumpet across his lap/ Behind him is a concrete wall with brick red paint peeling off. Mr. Tolliver is an African American man with a beard and glasses.

Charles Tolliver

Charles Tolliver, entirely self-taught, is a remarkable talent who has gained an outstanding reputation as a trumpetist, bandleader, composer, arranger, and educator. Born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1942, his musical career began at the age of eight when his beloved grandmother, Lela, presented him with his first instrument, a cornet, and the inspiration to learn.

After a few years of college majoring in pharmacy at Howard University, and formulating his trumpet style, Charles began his professional career with the saxophone giant Jackie McLean. Making his recording debut with McLean on Blue Note Records in 1964, Charles has since recorded and/or performed with such renowned artists as Roy Haynes, Hank Mobley, Willie Bobo, Horace Silver, McCoy Tyner, Sonny Rollins, Booker Ervin, Gary Bartz, Herbie Hancock, The Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Oliver Nelson, Andrew Hill, Louis Hayes, Roy Ayers, Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, and Max Roach.

In 1969, he formed the quartet Music Inc. which has become internationally respected for its innovative trumpet quartet approach. Charles and his Music, Inc., have toured in North and South America, Europe, Scandinavia, and Japan, performing at festivals, concerts, and on radio and television stations. In 1970, he and his alter ego fellow musician artist Stanley Cowell created Strata-East Records which he has steadfastly kept alive straight into the present. During the ’80s and ’90s he continued touring with Music Inc. and on a number of occasions performed his large ensemble compositions and arrangements as soloist with practically every European Radio/TV Jazz orchestra. Having already issued on his Strata-East label two critically acclaimed big band LPs, Music Inc. & Big Band and Impact, he once again returned to the big band format in the 2000’s. In 2007 he issued his big band recording, With Love, on Blue Note Records which was immediately Grammy nominated.

In addition to his Grammy nomination, The Jazz Journalists Association presented him with the “Best Large Ensemble of the Year 2007” award for his new tour de force group The Charles Tolliver Big Band. Charles has been a recipient of the Downbeat Critic’s Choice for the Trumpet category.

In an historic reenactment & presentation for the 50th anniversary celebration of Thelonious Monk’s historic 1959 Town Hall concert, he was featured performing his definitive transcription of the lost scores of arranger Hal Overton’s orchestrations of Thelonious’ music exactly as it was performed & recorded for the original concert. His newest big band CD Emperor March recorded live at the Blue Note New York City was released in March 2009.

Charles has perfected an extremely individual and distinctive sound which clearly sets him apart from other trumpet players. Characterized by a strong sense of tradition, he said in a recent Downbeat magazine interview about his approach to improvising that, “I like to rumble. I take the most difficult routes for improvisation. It’s easy to play a number of choruses effortlessly and never make a mistake, never break down. That’s no fun. You need to get in hot water by trying something out right from the jump, get yourself out of that, and move on to the next chorus.”

View a tribute video to 2019 Living Legacy Jazz Award Presented by PECO Honoree Charles Tolliver.

Image: Charles Tolliver. Credit: Jimmy Katz.

Bio Credit:

This Year’s Event

The 2019 Living Legacy Jazz Award
Presented by PECO

Charles Tolliver stands center holding his 2019 Living Legacy Jazz Award Presnted by PECO plaque.  He is flanked by two people on each side.

On Friday, October 11, 2019, we celebrated the career and contributions of trumpeter, composer, arranger, and bandleader Charles Tolliver at the 2019 Living Legacy Jazz Award Presented by PECO at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, PA.

Beginning at 5:30 pm, guests enjoyed a reception in the Kimmel Center’s Hamilton Garden where the 2019 Living Legacy Jazz Award was presented to Mr. Tolliver. In honor of the 25th Anniversary of the Living Legacy Jazz Award, previous Legacy winners joined us as our guests for the evening, including Joanne Brackeen, Odean Pope, Larry Ridley, and Reggie Workman.

At 8:00 pm, guests were treated to a concert by Marcus Roberts and the Modern Jazz Generation Band with a special appearance by the 2018 Living Legacy honoree, Toshiko Akiyoshi in the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater. A surprise appearance by Charles Tolliver capped off the evening.

For more information on the 2019 Living Legacy Jazz Award Presented by PECO, or for information on the 2020 event, please contact Karen Newell at or via telephone at 410.539.6656 x104.

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Image: (l-r) Hal Real, Board Chair, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation; Theresa Colvin, Executive Director, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation; Charles Tolliver, 2019 Living Legacy Jazz Award Presented by PECO Honoree; Michael Innocenzo, President and CEO, PECO; and Romona Riscoe Benson, Director of Corporate and Community Relations, PECO. Credit: Martin Regusters.

Title Sponsor


PECO, founded in 1881, is Pennsylvania’s largest electric and natural gas utility and is one of the Greater Philadelphia region’s most active corporate citizens. The company provides about $6 million in grant support annually to numerous educational, environmental, arts and culture and community development organizations. PECO’s 2,700 employees volunteer thousands of hours of time and talent each year as board members and volunteers in their communities. Each year, PECO invests more than $1 million into arts programs, alone, helping people of all ages and backgrounds experience local visual and performing arts.

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2019 Honorary Event Chairs and Philadelphia Host Committee


MAYOR JIM KENNEY, Mayor of Philadelphia
ANNE EWERS, President and CEO, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

ROMONA RISCOE BENSON, Director of Corporate Relations, PECO
HAL REAL, Founder and President, World Cafe Live

Committee Members
ROBERT BYNUM, Co-Owner, Bynum Hospitality Group
STEWART R. CADES, Chairman, Overseas Strategic Consulting
ANDREA L. CUSTIS, President and CEO, Philadelphia Urban League
DR. DONALD GUY GENERALS, President, Community College of Philadelphia
BILL GOLDERER, President and CEO, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey
JULIE COKER GRAHAM, President and CEO, Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau
WILLIAM JOHNSON, General Manager, WRTI, Temple University
ROGER LaMAY, General Manager, WXPN, University of Pennsylvania
CHARISSE R. LILLIE, ESQ., CEO, Charisse R. Lillie Consulting LLC
ELIZABETH A. MURPHY, Senior Vice President, PECO
SARA LOMAX-REESE, President and CEO, WURD Radio
CARL E. SINGLEY, ESQ., Counsel, Tucker Law Group
BERNARD W. SMALLEY, SR., ESQ., Counsel, Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer
GERALD VEASLEY, President, Jazz Philadelphia
DAVID YAGER, President and CEO, University of the Arts