GRAHAM COLLIER

Progressive Big Band / Avant-Garde Jazz / Third Stream / Fusion / Jazz Education • United Kingdom
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Graham Collier's career spanned four decades of innovation at the forefront of British jazz. He was the first British graduate of the Berklee School of Jazz, Boston, and the first jazz composer to receive a commission from the Arts Council of Great Britain. During this time composition, conducting, education and journalism took him around the world.

He was born in Tynemouth, England, in 1937. On leaving school he joined the British Army as a musician, spending three years in Hong Kong. He subsequently won a DownBeat magazine scholarship to the Berklee School of Music in Boston, studying with Herb Pomeroy and becoming its first British graduate in 1963. Returning to Britain, he formed the first of many line-ups known as Graham Collier Music, dedicated to performing his own compositions. One critic called his bands a ‘nursery for British jazz talent’, and over the years his line-ups have featured almost
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WorkpointsWorkpoints
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GRAHAM COLLIER Discography

GRAHAM COLLIER albums / top albums

GRAHAM COLLIER Deep Dark Blue Centre album cover 4.50 | 1 ratings
Deep Dark Blue Centre
Progressive Big Band 1967
GRAHAM COLLIER Down Another Road album cover 4.46 | 3 ratings
Down Another Road
Progressive Big Band 1969
GRAHAM COLLIER Songs for My Father album cover 3.83 | 3 ratings
Songs for My Father
Progressive Big Band 1970
GRAHAM COLLIER Portraits album cover 3.25 | 2 ratings
Portraits
Avant-Garde Jazz 1973
GRAHAM COLLIER Midnight Blue album cover 5.00 | 1 ratings
Midnight Blue
Progressive Big Band 1975
GRAHAM COLLIER Jazz Illustrations album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Jazz Illustrations
Jazz Education 1975
GRAHAM COLLIER New Conditions album cover 3.00 | 2 ratings
New Conditions
Progressive Big Band 1976
GRAHAM COLLIER The Day Of The Dead album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Day Of The Dead
Fusion 1978
GRAHAM COLLIER Adam's Marble album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Adam's Marble
Progressive Big Band 1995
GRAHAM COLLIER Luminosity / The Last Suites album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Luminosity / The Last Suites
Progressive Big Band 2014
GRAHAM COLLIER Impulsive Illuminations album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Impulsive Illuminations
Progressive Big Band 2016

GRAHAM COLLIER EPs & splits

GRAHAM COLLIER live albums

GRAHAM COLLIER Mosaics album cover 4.00 | 2 ratings
Mosaics
Progressive Big Band 1971
GRAHAM COLLIER Darius album cover 4.88 | 3 ratings
Darius
Avant-Garde Jazz 1974
GRAHAM COLLIER Jazz Lecture Concert album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Jazz Lecture Concert
Avant-Garde Jazz 1975
GRAHAM COLLIER Symphony of Scorpions album cover 2.64 | 2 ratings
Symphony of Scorpions
Progressive Big Band 1976
GRAHAM COLLIER Something British Made In Hong Kong album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Something British Made In Hong Kong
Third Stream 1985
GRAHAM COLLIER Charles River Fragments album cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
Charles River Fragments
Progressive Big Band 1996
GRAHAM COLLIER The Third Colour album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Third Colour
Progressive Big Band 1999
GRAHAM COLLIER Winter Oranges (with The Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra) album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Winter Oranges (with The Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra)
Progressive Big Band 2002
GRAHAM COLLIER Bread And Circuses album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Bread And Circuses
Third Stream 2002
GRAHAM COLLIER Workpoints album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Workpoints
Fusion 2005
GRAHAM COLLIER Graham Collier's Hoarded Dreams album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Graham Collier's Hoarded Dreams
Progressive Big Band 2007

GRAHAM COLLIER demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

GRAHAM COLLIER re-issues & compilations

GRAHAM COLLIER Down Another Road/Songs For My Father/Mosaics album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Down Another Road/Songs For My Father/Mosaics
Progressive Big Band 2007

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GRAHAM COLLIER movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

GRAHAM COLLIER Reviews

GRAHAM COLLIER Darius

Live album · 1974 · Avant-Garde Jazz
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Sean Trane
Collier’s fifth album finds him reaching his creative peak with the awesome Darius project, which takes his composing skills up a few echelons on the ladder of great jazz songwriters. Indeed, if Collier’s impeccable sense of composition is easily recognizable, a big part of his album’s artistic success is how he assembles the different ingredients, most notably the musicians he chooses and how they will interact in the frame of the canvas he wrote for the project. Featuring a mix of some of the usual suspects from both his earlier albums and his next outings, we’ll find long-time collabs like Beckett, Lowther and Webb, along with newer mates like Castle (keys), Speight (el. guit) and Wadsworth (tromb).

In terms of the project, Darius is the first of Collier’s increased ambitions in terms of songwriting and Graham had created his own label Mosaic to allow himself all the freedom he wished. Mosaics would last mainly five years and Collier took full advantage of this new-found freedom from the very first release, the present Darius. Indeed, the album is mostly made up of one sole epic track, the 44-mins title track that was obviously sprawled over both sides of the vinyl, but presented on the CD as one whole uninterrupted track. Such a monster track can only dwarf its little brother, the 5-mins+ New Dawn, which has its own huge merits, but will likely to go unnoticed.

If the previous Collier works were sometimes flirting with the borders between jazz and rock, they were still quite firmly entrenched in the former idiom, much more so than Weather Report or Nucleus. But with Darius, that frontier is actually so close that the musicians often thread over the barriers, probably not always knowingly. Indeed Webb’s drumming is well in the line of what Marshall used to do for Collier and was doing in Nucleus and the same can be said for Geoff Castle and Karl Jenkins’ piano ticklings (not counting Karl’s horn activities), Geoff succeeding to Karl in Nucleus. Castle’s tasteful and outstanding Rhodes playing is one of the central foundation piece of Darius. As for Collier’s contrabass, it sometimes tends to forget to shine, but then again it is all at the music’s service rather than searching the spotlights. Up front, Speight’s electric guitar is simply excellent (reminiscent of Coryell or Spedding’s styles) and probably served as a reference to Holdsworth, Etheridge and some more later-70’s axemen in similar projects. On the horn side, while both trumpetists Lowther and Beckett are present, I haven’t really heard them playing simultaneously, part of the horn space being hogged up by the immense trombone of Wadsworth.

As usual, Collier’s music is filled with dramatic and descriptive moments and often drawing spine-chills, probably because like Ian Carr, he often writes about literary issues, in this case, the Persian king that gave the Athenians (and Greeks in general) such difficult times in Antiquity. And to pay some attention to the New Dawn, that little brother is obviously from the same bed as the Persian king that didn’t see the light of the next day. Strangely enough, we don’t miss the usually ever-present saxophone at all, partly because there is already so much to listen to already, that we’re not even noticing it.

So if you’re a fan of a certain type of early-70’s JR/F, like Nucleus, the Vitous-era Weather Report, Dean-era Soft Machine or Mwandishi, Darius will no doubt ravish you, and if you’re into more standard prog-rock, you might actually like it more than the afore-mentioned bands, because Collier’s songwriting is tighter, tidier and more structured. Well the last CD reissue of this absolute masterpiece was released in 2000 on the now-defunct Disconforme label, and I don’t see it reissued anytime soon, so you’d better run to your dealer quick and maim the people in line to grab that last copy. A little jail time will be indeed worthy in order to own this gem.

GRAHAM COLLIER Down Another Road

Album · 1969 · Progressive Big Band
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Sean Trane
Well after having chanced upon that DDBC album of Collier and fallen under its charm, yours truly just had to go out and find more of the same, and luckily enough I found Collier’s second album. I instantly pounced on it after seeing that not only were present Jenkins and Marshall, there was also a future Tippett-gang member (and King Crimson alumni) Nick Evans. Although DAR didn’t carry such an emblematic and stylised artwork as its predecessor DDBC, its own orange & black cover had a hypnotizing quality that allowed the music’s magic to operate its charms.

Opening on the 5-mins title track with a solid Nucleus-like drum (Marshall, of course) and some typical Evans trombone and Beckett flugelhorn, and later Sulzmann tenor sax, the track holds an hypnotising rhythm held by Marshall and Collier, but also Jenkins’ piano. The 17-mins Danish Blue starts up on some light dissonance in its intro, but once the track enters its main body, the sea is much calmer, despite Marshall’s intense drumming. The track takes its time to develop its themes and takes a few meanders for out happiness, allowing for some delightful soloing from the horn players.

The flipside opens on a stupendous exchange between Evans’ trombone and Jenkins’ oboe over a low-tempo and delicate Marshall percussions. The much faster paced Aberdeen Angus was probably written thinking of a good beefsteak after a wild hunt in a field, and Marshall fires bullets on all drums, including a wild solo, which tends to last a tad too long for its own good, but once Jenkins re-enters on the piano for the finale, you realize just how good a drummer John is. The Lonely Child Lullaby is by definition a slow-paced affair, one where Sulzmann’s tenor takes an over-sweet flavour, but the whole track is a bit of a 50’s cliché. The closing 8-mins Molewrench is the band’s last bravery stunt, with an amazing oboe over a delicate (at first anyway) Collier-Marshall mid-tempo beat and gradually crescendoing, especially once the trombone enters the debate and ending the album in a stupendous finale, letting you wish for more.

Definitely one of my top 10 English pure-jazz albums (that means Nucleus is not qualified) and is a must-hear for anyone searching seldom-heard unearthed gems. Indeed in this regard the (now-defunct) label Disconforme were often very-well inspired in a rockier reissue front, but also managed a few more lost UK-jazz classics like Collier or Winstone albums. Run for it, while it’s still available or accessibly-priced on the used market.

GRAHAM COLLIER Songs for My Father

Album · 1970 · Progressive Big Band
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Sean Trane
After the superb Down Another Road, some of the protagonists had now flown the nest and are busy building their own Nucleus and Collier named his project as Graham Collier Music, since it varied too much to make a change every time it did. Actually, there is hardly anyone from the previous sextet present on the songs, but the list of participants remains quite impressive anyway. Indeed the front artwork mentions guitarist Phil Lee and tenor saxman Alan Skidmore, but they’re present only on two tracks and also for Wadsworth, only present on a different two. Some seven songs (they’re numbered 1 to 7) all tied-up, some with irregular beats and tricky time sigs, something that might have been probably unappreciated by his own dad (I wouldn’t know for his, but I know mine would’ve hated them).

The opening Seven-Four song is a great upbeat tune, taking Down much from Another previous Road, but installing a little added value (guitar), with Taylor’s piano playing wonder, while the following Ballad takes the same riff (or so it seems), but slowed-down. After that Ballad glided effortlessly into the upbeat piano-lead Nine-Eight Blues (probably my least fave of the album, but it’s still quite excellent), where Beckett’s trumpets-up a storm over a difficult beat and everyone follows suit (so it seems), effortlessly.

The flipside opens on a Waltz In Four-Four, a weird un-danceable thing that breaks apart after some 30 seconds to kick-starts itself later in a rapid upbeat vehicle, racing down the school street at 100 MPH. Insane stuff, really; but it’s a bit too bad for the drum solo (not my thing), even if short. The waltz segues in Rubato, but somehow the themes are succeeding with out changing much apart from veering dissonant in the improvisation and dying off slow. Dirge actually takes from there and gradually (read slowly) crescendoes with Beckett’s trumpet and, later, Wakeman’s sax grow from intense to glowingly red with Webb’s interesting drumming, much reminiscent of John Marshall. The closing 4/4 Figured takes over with Taylor’s piano before Dirge has a time to reach mid-tempo, but despite the added reinforcement troops, it fails to recapture the outstanding spirit of the opening track, as Phil Lee’s guitar is too discrete for my tastes. Still quite worthy an ending, though.

Collier’s third (fourth) solo album is another cool touchdown scored on a local scene that was won-over by the first two beauties achieved earlier. Collier is the confirmation that a contrabassist (after the immense Mingus) could make awesome composers, while never abusing of their instrument’s presence in the final results. While SFMF might lack the absolute genius of Darius or its preceding Another Road, it’s still quite a must-hear in post-bop jazz.

GRAHAM COLLIER Mosaics

Live album · 1971 · Progressive Big Band
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Sean Trane
Definitely a step up from his previous works’ Collier’s Mosaics piece is an impressive mix of written series of themes mixed with a bunch of solo instrumental improvisations. Aside Graham, you’ll find the usual suspects like Beckett, Castle, Wakeman (not Rick) and Webb (not Stan) and finally newcomer (to Collier‘s entourage) Sydor on sax. Recorded live at the tail end of 1970, the album sports an uncharacteristic electronics-as-mosaics Roger Dean artwork.

A slow crescendoing piano opens the album and introduces the Mosaics theme, where you’ll find the typical Collier composing characteristics, a dramatic-sounding background, which is sometimes reminiscent of Spanish music (and the Spaghetti Western soundtracks ala Morricone) and some much freer and sometimes bordering dissonant lead horn instruments. Then there are the solos-proper themselves, which are generally not quite as easy on the eardrums and tend to dampen the aural enthusiasm on an otherwise often-remarkable project. Indeed in this writer’s opinion, while these rather short solo excursions in dissonant or inhabitual scales are generally fine (and even magnified) when accompanied by some tremendous musical foundations from the rest of the band; they fall rather flat on their face when the solo is indeed playing entirely solo, often close to masturbation. However Castle’s piano works, Webb’s drumming and Collier’s bassing (says moi! ;o)) are irreproachable, most of the (very light) blame would be attributed to the horn players, if it wasn’t the zeitgeist.

Overall another excellent Graham Collier album (despite the small reserves about soloing solo instruments), not far from the Nucleus of Ian Carr, not as JR/F either but close enough to be associated to the nascent movement.

GRAHAM COLLIER Charles River Fragments

Live album · 1996 · Progressive Big Band
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Sean Trane
One of Collier’s last works (so far) is also one of his most impressive and certainly one of my fave. A BBC Radio 3 commissioned project for the London Jazz Festival of 94 and dedicated to Charles Mingus (he had English roots as well). Actually Collier wrote and directed the piece, but he doesn’t play on it, but there is nevertheless a real impressive guest list with people like John Marshall, Henri Lowther, Ed Speight, and Art Themen, just to name a few out of the 14 participants, called the Jazz Ensemble. The album first opens up on separate tune from the CRF work, with the almost 10-mins Hackney Five, a piece that can honestly be taken as a perfectly-suited appetizer to the main course coming up.

The monster 56-mins Charles River fragments makes the rest of the album, and a splendid piece it is…. If the word big band jazz ever scares you, because you’re not in the Goodman-Miller and Ellington frame of mind (the case of yours truly), don’t be afraid of this project: 14 men is not that big a band, and 10 of them are reed or nozzle men (woods & brass respectively), often acting as a discreet and un-intrusive horn section behind the great soloing (and sometimes improvising) lead horns, namely Fraser’s trombone, Waterman & Lowther’s trumpets while the four saxmen alternate at the forefront. Of course the whole project wouldn’t be worth a penny if it wasn’t for the extra-ordinary John Marshall’s (of Nucleus and Soft Machine fame) splendid drumming, holding up the whole shebang almost single-handedly. Obviously being a long-time Collier collab, Graham knew Marshall would hold up to the challenge. In terms of composition, it is rather clear that the main body of the piece is clearly aimed at Mingus, and the result is clearly a compliment to Charles. Well at one point (around the 40-mins-mark) the mood is indeed for a more traditional big band mood, but it sure comes out of it to go slightly dissonant territory (the last sax interventions) to end gracefully and leaving with a full belly (read ear) and the impression of a gourmet meal.

Certainly a very interesting album, from a fascinating composer who’s dabbled in many areas of jazz, and produced some stunning work, this ones coming close to belonging to the upper quarter of his discography.

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