One of the things that Graham had only begun to sketch out in note form when he died were the back-up notes he intended to post here as additional material to that included on the sleeve and in the CD booklet. Beyond reprising critical comment culled from the web pages of individual recordings elsewhere at this site, he had hoped to give a personal historical note to each track. With only his barest notes to go on, I have tried to put each track into the context in which he might have wanted to present them.
You can read further critical comment and also hear excerpts from each album at their individual pages under the clickable “Recordings & more” icon above. John Gill.
disc one – down another road – the early Collier
1 Down Another Road (1969) 5.08
Harry Beckett (fh), Graham Collier (b), Nick Evans (tb), Karl Jenkins (o, p), John Marshall (d), Stan Sulzmann (as, ts)
from Down Another Road (Fontana, 1969; BGO 2007)
Harry Beckett often claimed that this piece, and this album, were among the earliest explorations of what became jazz-rock, although Graham demurred to the ground-breaking work of Miles Davis. Graham said that jazz-rock was “something in the air” at that time, and that if his grouping of largely unknown young musicians hadn’t done it, others would have. A cover of ‘Down Another Road’ appeared on the Nostalgia 77 Octet’s 2005 Seven’s & Eight’s CD recorded live at London’s Jazz Café.
2 The [Berklee] Barley Mow (1963) 3.36
Soloists: Richard Iannitelli (as), Sadao Watanabe (fl), with Gary Burton (vibes), Mike Gibbs (tb), Dusko Gojkovic (t), Mike Nock (p), and personnel from an uncredited thirty-six piece student big band
from Jazz in the Classroom, Vol. VII (Berklee, 1963)
The track from the one surviving vinyl copy of this LP in Graham’s collection transferred to a rough master sounding like it was being played on a Dansette plunging down a lift shaft, and Graham’s engineer Tom Leader, who had to hire in special equipment to retrieve this from the crackle and hiss, did a remarkable piece of key-hole surgery on it. I was unable to track down Richard Iannitelli, even via the Berklee alumni office. The careers of Messrs Watanabe, Burton and Gibbs should need no rehearsal here. The Serbian trumpeter Dusko Gojkovic went on to play with Maynard Ferguson, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan, Sonny Rollins and many others, and continues to play and record in his home town of Belgrade. Mike Nock returned to his native Australia, where he has recorded many albums, for ECM and others, and has a rather fine ten-inch catadioptric telescope in his back garden!
3 Crumblin’ Cookie (1967) 5.21
Dave Aaron (as, fl), Harry Beckett (fh, t), Graham Collier (b), Mike Gibbs (tb), Karl Jenkins (bs, o), Philip Lee (g), John Marshall (d)
from Deep Dark Blue Centre (Deram, 1967; BGO 2008)
The acid jazz phenomenon, which led Ministry of Sound magazine to dub Graham an “acid jazz legend” (he refused to wear the T-shirt I got that printed on…), re-cast this track and album as ur-texts of the genre. It has appeared on numerous compilations, including Trailer Happiness: Velvet Voodoo (whatmusic) and as a mix on Masanori Morita’s, ah, New Tokyo International Jazz Airport Meets whatmusic.com (whatmusic).
4 An Alternate Workpoints (1968) 34.29
Dave Aaron (as, fl, ss, ts), Harry Beckett (fh, t), Graham Collier (b), Mike Gibbs (tb), Karl Jenkins (bs, o, p, ss), Henry Lowther (fh, t), John Marshall (d), John Mumford (tb, cowbell), Frank Ricotti (bongoes, vibes), Chris Smith (tb), Stan Sulzmann (as, ts), John Surman (b cl, bs, p, ss), Kenny Wheeler (fh, t)
The information surfaced too late to be included in the CD booklet, but this mystery recording was in fact supplied from the private collection of the Australian critic and broadcaster Gerry Koster, host of ABC’s Jazz Up Late programme. Gerry acquired it many years ago from a Japanese collector and only rediscovered it in his archives a few years ago, when he alerted Graham to its existence and sent him a copy. None of the musicians could remember the actual performance, nor did any appeals to jazz specialists at several internet sites produce any more information. While working on this compilation, I contacted Stan Sulzmann, following a hunch of Graham’s that I found in his production notes, and, as noted in the CD sleevenotes, according to Stan’s remarkable memory this recording was probably made at the Barry Summer School in Wales in 1968. Gerry adds that Graham had written to him saying that he thought it in many ways superior to the extant recorded version. So many thanks to Gerry for this accidental but crucial piece of archaeology.
5 Song Three Live (1970) Excerpt 4.07
Harry Beckett (fh, t), Graham Collier (b), Bob Sydor (as, ts), John Taylor (p), Derek Wadsworth (tb), Alan Wakeman (ss, ts), John Webb (d)
from Songs for My Father (Fontana, 1970; BGO 2007)
Unissued originally, this track reappeared on later remasters of Songs…, which was hailed as among the records of the year by Charles Fox, Derek Jewell and Steve Voce.
6 Mosaics (1970) Excerpt 2.45
Harry Beckett (fh, t), Geoff Castle (p), Graham Collier (b), Bob Sydor (as, ts), Alan Wakeman (ss, ts), John Webb (d)
from Mosaics (Philips, 1970; BGO 2007)
7 The Alternate Mosaics (1970) Excerpt 2.09
personnel as ‘Mosaics’
from The Alternate Mosaics (BGO 2008)
Not quite “relooks” but contemporary alternates, the pairing of these two in Graham’s running list serves to show just how different one piece could sound on two different nights. Graham loved to quote his good friend, the late Charles Fox, on improvisation, Collier-style: “It may be a different animal, but it still has the owner’s name on the collar.” It is just as likely, however, that Graham included these two for the sheer joy of Harry Beckett’s playing.
8 Adam (1975) 7.02
Harry Beckett (fh, t), Graham Collier (b), Roger Dean (p), Ed Speight (g), Derek Wadsworth (tb), John Webb (d)
from Midnight Blue (Mosaic, 1975; BGO 2009)
‘Adam’ was one of three pieces inspired, as was the side-long title work, by the paintings of Barnett Newman (you can see the original, in the Tate Gallery collection, here) , and painting would remain a regular inspiration up until Graham’s very last suite, the as-yet-unreleased Hans Hofmann Suite (2011), premiered by Paul Cram’s Upstream Ensemble in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in February 2011. Back in 1975, Music Week declared Midnight Blue “arguably the best British jazz album of the year”.
9 Aberdeen Angus (1969) 6.01
Personnel as ‘Down Another Road’
from Down Another Road (Fontana, 1969; BGO 2007)
What we in the criticism racket try to avoid calling a “stormer”, this is nevertheless a seasoned time-traveller in Graham’s repertoire, re-appearing as a popular live “relook” up until his last ever concerts. (It also underwent a radical re-purposing at the hands of Roberto Bonati in the “omaggio” tribute concert at the 2011 ParmaJazz Frontiere Festival in Parma, Italy.) It is also a favourite of (now former) Babyshambles drummer Adam Ficek, who studied with the redoubtable John Marshall. Ficek included ‘Aberdeen Angus’ along with tracks by Belle & Sebastian, The Clash, Bert Jansch and Johnny Thunders on the Babyshambles Back to the Bus tour-bus listening favourites compilation, and had this to say in the sleevenotes: “Late 60s jazz/rock, before jazz went ‘middle class’ and tame. This is the stuff before British jazz went wrong; emotional, raw. My hero John Marshall falling off his stool at the end. Old school risk takers!!!”
In fairness to John Marshall I should perhaps add that the penultimate sentence there is a rare example of the Shamblies using metaphor…
disc two – new conditions – the mature Collier
1 New Conditions (1976) Part 4 5.10
Soloist: John Mitchell
Harry Beckett (fh, t), Graham Collier (b), Roger Dean (p), Pete Duncan (t), Malcolm Griffiths (tb), Henry Lowther (t), John Mitchell (perc), Mike Page (as, ts, ss), Ed Speight (g), Art Themen (ss, ts), Alan Wakeman (ss), John Webb (d)
from New Conditions (Mosaic, 1976; BGO 2009)
Commissioned by the Arts Council of Great Britain for a tour of England, this was the first album-length composition, as opposed to ‘suite’, that Graham wrote for a large ensemble. He had just returned from mixing it at the revered engineer Bob Auger’s studio at Nettlebed in Oxfordshire the night we first met, and I was an occasional roadie and post-gig record vendor for part of this tour. I swear you can hear Krzystof Penderecki messing around with John Mitchell’s percussion kit on this. While Charles Fox described it as “The most intriguing and worthwhile of his longer compositions”, Chris Welch of the Melody Maker hated it, commenting on one passage that “It sounds like an elephant tip-toeing through a plumber’s bedroom.” So they must have been doing something right.
2 Forest Path to the Spring 4.07
Ed Speight (ac g), Art Themen (ss, ts)
from Symphony of Scorpions (Mosaic, 1977; BGO 2011)
The writer Malcolm Lowry exerted a major influence on Graham’s work in the late 1970s and into the early 1980s, inspiring not just the two Lowry recordings, Symphony of Scorpions and The Day of the Dead, but at least six works inspired by his writings. The novella The Forest Path to the Spring was published in a collection of Lowry’s shorter works, Hear Us O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place, in 1961, four years after Lowry’s death. After the metaphysical horrors of Under the Volcano, Forest Path… reflected the idyll Lowry and his wife Marjorie had found living in a squatter’s shack on an inlet at Dollarton, outside Vancouver. (We visited the site, where the shack had blown away in a storm decades earlier, as part of a faintly bibulous charabanc outing from a Lowry conference in Vancouver in 1987.) You can can see a photo of the shack, where Lowry wrote much of Under the Volcano, and read about Lowry’s life there at the website of the local Deep Cove Heritage Society. Reviewing the 2001 remastered re-release, Bill Shoemaker in Jazz Review echoed Graham’s comment by calling this track “too damn beautiful”.
3 Symphony of Scorpions (1977) Part 2 7.36
Soloist: Art Themen
Harry Beckett (fh, t), Graham Collier (b), Roger Dean (p), Pete Duncan (t), Malcolm Griffiths (tb), Henry Lowther (t), John Mitchell (perc), Mike Page (as, ss, ts), Tony Roberts (ss, ts), Ed Speight (g), Art Themen (ss, ts), John Webb (d)
from Symphony of Scorpions (Mosaic, 1977; BGO 2011)
The lengthy title track from the album that contained ‘Forest Path…’ was no mere preparatory exercise for the double The Day of the Dead, which Graham only conceived after writing Symphony, but a free-standing piece where Graham said he “tried to capture the essence of Lowry’s methods”. Writing in the Financial Times, Kevin Henriques called it “Collier’s most ambitious recorded composition and clearly another of his major works.”
4 The Day of the Dead (1978)
Melange of three short extracts 3.00
Featuring John Carbery (narr) with various groupings from an all-star band including: Roy Babbington (b), Harry Beckett (fh, t), Ashley Brown (d, perc), Graham Collier (dir), Roger Dean (p), Malcolm Griffiths (tb), Henry Lowther (t), Mike Page (af, as, ss), Ed Speight (g), Art Themen (ss, ts), Alan Wakeman (bc, ss, ts)
from The Day of the Dead (Mosaic, 1978; BGO 2011)
Not even the BBC’s venerable Pronunciation Unit could help the narrator John Carbery with the correct way to say the name of the Mexican town and state of Oaxaca that appears in Under the Volcano, and it took a road trip there a few years later for us to discover that it is in fact “Wha-ha-ka”, the genitive describing the gourds being “Wha-ha-kee-nan”. But the mispronunciation should not detract from what the Financial Times called “a perfect marriage of words and music”. Steven Loewy of the AllMusic Guide called it “One of the most successful fusing of spoken word and jazz on disc”, while the unimpeachable Raúl Ortiz y Ortiz, the first Spanish-language translator of Volcano and at the time of writing the cultural ambassador for Mexico in London, wrote that it “Not only captures and expresses a faithful personal interpretation of existential conflicts in the Volcano, but it also evokes the paradoxical din of sad rejoicings in the Day of the Dead in this, my own country.” And Raúl knows what he’s talking about.
5 Hoarded Dreams (1983) Part Two:
Five Trumpets and a Baritone 11.43
Soloists: Ted Curson, Henry Lowther, Manfred Schoof, Tomasz Stańko, John Surman, Kenny Wheeler
Juhani Aaltonen (as, ts), Conny Bauer (tb), Paul Bridge (b), Ashley Brown (d, perc), Ted Curson (t), Roger Dean (kb, p), Malcolm Griffiths (tb), Henry Lowther (fh, t), Dave Powell (tuba), Manfred Schoof (fh, t), John Schröder (g), Matthias Schubert (ob, ts), Ed Speight (g), Tomasz Stańko (fh, t), John Surman (bs, cl, bcl), Eje Thelin (tb), Art Themen (ss, ts), Geoff Warren (af, as), Kenny Wheeler (fh, t)
from Hoarded Dreams (Cuneiform, 2007)
Although there were other triumphs still to come, 1983 was probably Graham’s annus mirabilis, when the once-only-ever combination of this line-up offered an almost literally unrepeatable summation of his philosophy, in a piece that was more or less written as a gift to these specific performers, Graham’s “hoarded dream” of a small orchestra of his favourite improvising interpreters of his work. It was a glorious afternoon at the Bracknell Jazz Festival, with the walls of the main marquee rolled up to allow the capacity crowd to spill out into the sunshine. The audience had grown impatient with delays by the Channel 4 film crew making a documentary about Graham and the project, but when this stellar group took the stage it was probably one of the most electric events in the history of the festival, and perhaps of jazz in Britain as well. Reviewing the concert in the New Statesman, Charles Fox described it as “70 minutes of dazzling solos and exchanges, what really could be described as musical fireworks”. It made it into the Penguin Guide to Jazz “core collection” of 200 essential recordings, and in 2010 was listed in the Penguin Guide’s The History of the Music in the Best 1001 Best Albums. There are even more superlatives at large on the Cuneiform CD’s page in this website.
6 One By One the Cow Goes By (1993) Part Two 8.41
Matthew Colman (tb), Dan Foster (as), Hugh Fraser (tb), Gabriel Garrick (t), Nick Goetzee (g), Sean Griffith (t), David Holt (tb), Tom Hooper (perc), Peter James (el p), John Machin (perc), Stephen Main (ss), Bill Mee (b tb) Matthew Morris (bs), Jon Noyce (b), James Scannell (as), Matthew Skelton (d), Matt Stewart (as), Christian Vaughan (p), Steve Waterman (t), Patrick White (t)
from spirits rising (ram 001 CD, 1993)
The time-consuming logistics of developing and then running the Royal Academy of Music jazz degree course chained Graham to a desk for some years, and for the first time in his life he became a commuter, from our home in south London. The first of a final total of seven student CDs offered him the chance to take the RAM big band for a spin around a piece he wrote especially to put them through their paces, with guest professor Hugh Fraser, a brilliant younger composer and trombonist he became fast friends with on a trip to Vancouver, as one of the featured soloists. Graham had noticed that one of the years, I forget which now, had taken to nicknaming each other, and rather nervously asked a student in the RAM bar if they had perhaps nicknamed him. The student replied equally nervously that they called him “Grazza” behind his back, and he was delighted. He was similarly delighted that many of his students would go on, entirely under their own steam, to become known in their own right, such as Tom Cawley in Curios and James Allsopp in Fraud. A continuation of his early bands’ reputation as what one critic called “a nursery for young talent”, including, of course, his later instigation of what would become Loose Tubes.
7 The Hackney Five (1994) Extract 5.47
Soloist: Hugh Fraser
Featuring The Jazz Ensemble directed by Graham Collier
Chris Biscoe (acl, bs), Hugh Fraser (tb), Andy Grappy (tuba), Mark Lockheart (ss, ts), Henry Lowther (t), John Marshall (d), Bill Mee (b tb), Dudley Phillips (b), Pete Saberton (p), Ed Speight (g), Art Themen (ss, ts), Geoff Warren (afl, as), Steve Waterman (t), Patrick White (t)
from Charles River Fragments (Jazzprint, 2003)
Far less notorious than the Birmingham Three or the Broadwater Four, The Hackney Five were and still are in fact our greatest friends, the actress Cleo Sylvestre, her husband Ian, who died shortly after this was recorded, and their three now-adult children, Zoë, Lucy and Rupert. Writing of this recording from the London Jazz Festival, Crescendo critic Ken Rattenbury called it “A magnificently sustained presentation of the artistry and craftsmanship which combine so seamlessly here to create such positive, exhilarating music.” Rupert probably wouldn’t like being reminded nowadays that he showed up to at least one performance of this piece in his Spiderman outfit.
8 The Third Colour (1997) Groove 2 3.16
Soloists: Roger Dean, Steve Waterman
Featuring The Jazz Ensemble directed by Graham Collier
Andy Cleyndert (b), Roger Dean (kb, p), Simon Finch (fh, t), Hugh Fraser (tb), Steve Main (as, bs, ss), John Marshall (d), Oren Marshall (tuba), Karlheinz Miklin (afl, fl, ss, ts), Ed Sarath (fh), Ed Speight (g), Art Themen (bsx, ss, ts) Geoff Warren (afl, as, ss), Steve Waterman (fh, t)
from The Third Colour (ASC, 1999, re-released by Jazzprint 2003; jazzcontinuum 2009)
Graham italicised the “Jazz” in the name of the big band that recorded this and the previous Charles River Fragments to re-emphasise what this music was about, at a time when the likes of Bill Laswell were declaring the word dead. This recording, from a 60th birthday celebration concert at the London Jazz Festival, prompted the Times critic Chris Parker to write “This concert succeeded superbly … an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of a true British original.” This excerpt only hints at its ‘secret’ fade out, as the full version segues immediately into a sublimely weird freak out on sampling synthesizer by Roger Dean, which just appeared out of nowhere (although I’m guessing Roger knew it was coming). One well-known US label turned down the recording because Roger’s solo, which Graham loved, actually offended them. Their loss.
9 Oxford Palms (2001) Open Blues & Ballad Two 5.58
Soloists: Graeme Blevins, Lee Buddle, Lindsay Vickery
Featuring Graham Collier & The Collective
Graeme Blevins (as), Lee Buddle (bs), Stephanie Dean (v), Hans Drieberg (d, perc), Lucy Fischer (v), Jeremy Greig (tb), Kieran Hurley (tb), Adrian Kelly (t, ldr), Tom O’Halloran (p), Martin Payne (va), Steve Richter (perc, mar), Matthew Savage (euph, tb), Jenny Tingley (cello), Lindsay Vickery (ss), Phil Waldron (b), Grant Windsor (p)
from Bread and Circuses (Jazzprint, 2002)
Graham leapt at the invitation to work with trumpeter Adrian Kelly’s idiosyncratic Australian improvising ensemble employing both jazz and classical instrumentation in often startling new ways. Originally commissioned by George Haslam’s Meltdown, the title combined the name of the hometown of another literary idol, William Faulkner, Oxford Missouri, and one of his lesser-known novels, Wild Palms. Reviewing it in Jazz Podium, Ulfert Goeman wrote “this musician does not swim in the same stream as other jazz composers but is one who always invents new ideas and tries to find new methods”.
10 The Vonetta Factor (2004) Opening 4.21
Soloists: Jeff Clyne, Roger Dean, Gideon Juckes
James Allsopp (bcl, ts), Mark Bassey (tb), Harry Beckett (fh, t), Chris Biscoe (as, bs), Alex Bonney (fh, t), Jeff Clyne (b), Roger Dean (kb, p), Gideon Juckes (tuba), Ed Speight (g), Art Themen (ss, ts), Trevor Tomkins (d), Fayyaz Virji (tb), Geoff Warren (afl, as, ss), Steve Waterman (fh, t)
Directed by Graham Collier
from directing 14 Jackson Pollocks (jazzcontinuum, 2009)
The title alludes to Miles Davis’s recording of the Wayne Shorter piece, ‘Vonetta’, on Sorcerer, and specifically to Davis’s instructions to drummer Tony Williams during the recording session to “play a rat-patrol sound”, a militaristic snare march that unsettles Shorter’s otherwise typically lyrical ballad. In his essay on the unlikely similarities between his composition ‘Ryoanji’ and the John Cage work of the same name (spoiler alert: not many!), which you can read here, Graham wrote of “a Vonetta level” where Davis’s request to Williams created a “totally unexpected approach”. In his last book, The Jazz Composer (2009), Graham wrote of Davis’s and his own “Vonetta factor” as the use of different levels of activity in the music that “create a kind of parallel universe”, and of the Davis version of the Shorter original he continued, “The effect is strange and intense, as if the peaceful mood of the ballad might be ripped apart at any moment.” As it is meant to be heard as a single unified work, you should listen through the entire piece to appreciate the full Vonetta factor.
11 An Alternate Aberdeen Angus (2004) 9.17
Soloists: Harry Beckett, Trevor Tomkins, Fayyaz Virji
personnel as ‘The Vonetta Factor’
also from directing 14 Jackson Pollocks
Which is where the dog comes home with the collar with the owner’s name on it still around its neck. I only realised while skipping through The Jazz Composer again (I proofread it at least once, so any remaining typos are probably mine) that Charles Fox minted the phrase “It may be a different animal but it still has the owner’s name on the collar” when writing about an earlier performance of this Collier standard. This boisterous “relook” comes from his 60th birthday concert at the London Jazz Festival in 1997 and is a splendid example of Graham’s philosophy in action. It certain wasn’t what he intended, but I can think of no better track to close this “Relook” at those forty-six years.