In the best CDs of 2009 lists in Jazz Journal, Jazzwise and Village Voice.
Picked in eMusic’s notable new releases, August 2009.
One of the most genuinely modern big band compositions to come out of Britain for twenty years.
A visionary and inspired work that’s utterly unlike any big band album released since the death of Gil Evans (except for, I assume, those made by Collier himself) .
His laid back attitude was totally at odds with the full frontal sound of the music. He appeared to casually stroll around the stage, giving directions to these fantastic musicians by hand signals … It was a bit like someone directing 14 Jackson Pollocks.
The comment by Gill Fisher, a friend of a friend who attended the 2004 concert, that I was directing 14 Jackson Pollocks is a concise and aware description of how I see my role as a jazz composer: to work with a group of brilliant musicians to create something which, while respecting what is written, changes from performance to performance as all good jazz should. This concept is the philosophical core of my new book the jazz composer, moving music off the paper, published simultaneously with this album by Northway Books.
Two full-length extracts from the new double CD
Out Blues from The Alternate Third Colour
Download here. (Control + Click on Macs, Right Click > Save As on Windows)
A different version of this track can be heard on The Third Colour CD.
Jeff Clyne (1937–2009)
The sad news came in November 2009 about the sudden passing of Jeff. His range as a bass-player was enormous but not surprisingly he fitted in magnificently when - after too long a wait - I asked him to join my band for the concerts in 2004. He was one of the regular teachers I used when I ran the Royal Academy’s jazz course, and was also a good friend. He will be much missed.
on Forty Years On and The Vonetta Factor
Back row, left to right: Geoff Warren (as ss afl) Alex Bonney (tp fh) Roger Dean (p kb),Jeff Clyne (b) Trevor Tomkins (d) Mark Bassey (tb) Chris Biscoe (as bs).
Front row, left to right: Harry Beckett (tp fh) Art Themen (ts ss) Steve Waterman (tp fh) Ed Speight (g) James Allsopp (ts bcl) Fayyaz Virji (tb) Gideon Juckes (tuba). Directed by Graham Collier.
on The Alternate Third Colour
Back row, left to right: Geoff Warren (as ss afl) Simon Finch (tp fh) Roger Dean (p kb) Andy Clyndert (b) John Marshall (d) Art Themen (ts ss bsx) Oren Marshall (tuba).
Front row, left to right: Steve Waterman (tp fh) Karlheinz Miklin (ss ts afl fl) Ed Sarath (fh) Ed Speight (g) Steve Main (as ss bs) Hugh Fraser (tb). Directed by Graham Collier.
First issued on a double CD by jazzcontinuum in May 2009.
Mixed and mastered by Tom Leader of LCL Digital.
Forty Years On, a new look at compositions written during Graham Collier’s career. Recorded live in London, November 2004.
The Vonetta Factor, a new composition commissioned by Birmingham Jazz, 2004. Recorded live in London, November 2004.
For some MSS and Audio from this composition see here.
The Alternate Third Colour, a different version of a Collier classic recorded during his 60th birthday celebrations in London, November 1997.
The other version of The Third Colour can be found on The Third Colour CD. Revealing Alternatives, an essay on the jazzcontinuum site, compares and contrasts the two.
The Vonetta Factor is one of the most genuinely modern big band compositions to come out of Britain for twenty years. … The music vibrates with passion and brims with a sense of spontaneity and joyous release. At some point, this country must show its appreciation of composers like Collier. Otherwise, nothing makes sense.
Duncan Heining, Jazzwise, October 2009
His methods … yield some wonderful results with old and new material. ‘Aberdeen Angus’, ‘Eggshell Summer’, ‘Third Simple Piece’ (all prefixed ‘An Alternate’), both performances of the blues ‘Mackerel Sky’, and the various ‘Third Colour’ interpretations are among the most exhilarating, sensual, beautiful and disturbing performances in this era’s jazz.
Ray Comiskey, The Irish Times, September 25th 2009.
In directing 14 Jackson Pollocks, Collier reaches distillation of the notion that the orchestra, the written music and the improvising soloist comprise a trinity, each element inseparable from the other. … He produces serious music that makes demands on its listeners and gives generous compensation to those who welcome it on its terms.
Doug Ramsey, Rifftides October 5th 2009.
Once again Collier's remarkable vision as a composer and Machiavellian mixer of the musical maelstrom comes arrestingly to the fore. In some ways, his act of composition is to choose his pyrotechnical players, light the blue touch paper, and let them soar and make sparks … the sum of these two CDs illustrates a talent long recognised as unique in world jazz by those who relish the art of the unpredictable.
Anthony Troon, Jazz Journal, October 2009
Picked in eMusic’s notable new releases August 2009
One of the most adventurous and distinguished British jazz composers, Graham Collier appropriately cites Charles Mingus, Gil Evans and Duke Ellington as mentors … The double-disc … is both more formally Euro-classical and more raucous than Mingus-Evans-Ellington. There are multiple layers almost constantly at play among the horn-heavy band, and their parts dovetail, fit tongue-in-groove, and collide in nearly equal measure.
… worth your time, provided you enjoy music that wants to set up shop as a heaving beast and then ambush you with moments of beauty and chromatic refraction.
Britt Robson, eMusic
These recordings … serve to focus attention on the degree to which Collier's music is far more expansive than it was in the past … The colors Collier coaxes out of the ensemble … are as emblematic as anything here of how his directorial role is integral to the music's character, and the level of interaction that summons up is great enough to blur the distinction between musician and director.
‘An Alternate Mackerel Sky’ seems to embody the significance of the alternate as a concept in Collier's music. Never a mere matter of takes, the alternate in this case refers to the notion of the blueprint. Nothing is ever the same way twice … but the primacy of the soloist proves that the balance struck is an exceptional one. A sense of the essentially slippery nature of the improvisatory arts is encapsulated beautifully.
Nic Jones, All About Jazz
Challenging large ensemble music that strikes a fine balance between structure and freedom. This is music full of interesting ideas and some great playing … his voicings are unusual and often challenging but there is much to reward the attentive listener. Collier’s music is fiercely individualistic inviting comparisons with the likes of Charles Mingus and Carla Bley.. … a fascinating glimpse at a distinguished jazz career.
Ian Mann, The JazzMann, September 2009.
While the 'name on the collar' is immediately identifiable courtesy of Collier trademarks such as his intelligent deployment of hauntingly memorable yet immediately accessible melodies, his judicious balancing of structure and freedom, and his flawless instinct for dynamic balance and textural variety, the 'different animal' is also vividly present throughout two hours of fascinating music.
Chris Parker, Vortex Jazz Club
A fusion of pre-planned architectures and regulated freedom allowing each soloist a spot under the sun yet never transcending into pandemonium, which lets us appreciate the lucid vision of a man that, together with people such as Mike Westbrook and Keith Tippett, has contributed to create a typical sound that for many aspects is our favourite brand of jazz, alternating hints to traditional schemes and a still-modern outlook on how a score should be interpreted by refined performers. Music that sounds nonconformist and time-honoured at once.
Massimo Ricci, Temporary Fault blogspot
How, for example, does John Hollenbeck’s Eternal Interlude—a perfectly fine, skillfully written yet formally conventional big band album released on a small indie label — show up on so many lists, while Graham Collier’s directing 14 Jackson Pollocks—a visionary and inspired work that’s utterly unlike any big band album released since the death of Gil Evans (except for, I assume, those made by Collier himself) — has yet to appear on a single one that I’ve seen?
Chris Kelsey, Chris Kelsey.com
Collier's music has pronounced and dissonant free-improv elements, but also structural involvement and concrete, crisply articulated rhythm [and] it swings.
David Adler, Leterland
Although the overall effect is that of cascading polyphony, Collier’s compositional skill is such that individual and individualistic textures and timbres can be heard, no matter how many lines are unfolding at once.
Ken Waxman, JazzWord
An extract from the liner notes
‘Up until [Hoarded Dreams], the formerly bass-playing Collier might have been described as Britain’s Mingus, but not after – Collier went back to the roots of the music and to the principle that jazz is not just about themes and solos, but also about individuals and collectives thinking in a very particular relation one to the other… Few musician’s ‘alternates’ are as revealing as Collier’s’
Brian Morton (co-editor of the Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings).