The Life and Works of Graham Collier
Duncan Heining [+–]
Duncan Heining writes about jazz, improvised music and 20th century composition. Since 1997 he has written for Avant Magazine, Record Collector, The Independent, The Independent On Sunday, Jazzwise, Jazz UK and the All About Jazz website. In 2010 Scarecrow Press published his biography of African-American composer and musical theorist George Russell, George Russell – An American Composer. He is also the author of Trad Dads, Dirty Boppers and Free Fusioneers: British Jazz, 1960-1975 (Equinox, 2012).
Graham Collier’s career in jazz lasted over five decades. He was a bassist, a band-leader, a composer, an educator and an author, who wrote extensively about the music. His working life was littered with ‘firsts’. Amongst his many achievements, he was the first British jazz musician to study at the Berklee School of music in Boston and the first to receive an Arts Council grant. In 1985, Collier began teaching at the Royal Academy of Music, where he later established the first full-time jazz degree course in the UK in 1987.
Mosaics draws extensively on Collier’s personal archive, as well as on interviews with fellow musicians, ex-students and colleagues from the Royal Academy of Music. It locates Collier and his work within the social and cultural changes which occurred during his life and, particularly, in relation to developments in British and European jazz of the 1960s and 70s. Collier’s work as a composer-bandleader represented an attempt to resolve the paradoxes inherent in jazz between composition and improvisation, familiarity and spontaneity and change and tradition. In this regard, Mosaics compares Collier’s work with other composers such as Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Gil Evans, Mike Westbrook, Stan Tracey, Barry Guy and Butch Morris.
Throughout, Collier emerges as a contradictory figure falling between several different camps. He was never an out-and-out musical, cultural or political radical but rather an individualist continually forced to confront the contradictions in his own position – a musical outsider working within a marginalised area of cultural activity; a gay man operating in a very male area of the music business and within heterosexist culture in general; a man of working class origins stepping outside traditionally prescribed class boundaries; and a musician-composer seeking individual solutions to collective problems of aesthetic and ethical value.
Series: Popular Music History
Table of Contents
Using Collier’s personal archive of papers and photographs, interviews with musicians who worked with him throughout his career and ex-students and lecturing staff at the Royal Academic of Music, this book will locate English jazz bassist, bandleader and composer Graham Collier and his work within the social and cultural changes which occurred during his period of creative activity. It will also examine the relevant changes within British and European jazz of the 1960s and 70s, particularly in terms in terms of race. Heining argues that Collier’s work as a composer-bandleader is an attempt to resolve the paradoxes of composition vs improvisation, familiarity vs spontaneity, change vs tradition inherent in jazz, with comparison with other composers – Mingus, Gil Evans, Westbrook, Barry Guy, and Butch Morris. Collier emerges as a contradictory, outsider figure in some respects falling between camps. He is neither an out-and-out musical, cultural or political radical but continually forced to confront the contradictions in his own position – as a musical outsider, who works within a marginalised area of cultural activity; as a gay man in a very male area of the music business and within a heterosexist culture in general; as a man of working class origins, who has ‘stepped outside’ traditionally prescribed class boundaries; and as an individual musician seeking individual solutions to collective problems of value and valuation.
Family background and life; schooling and early musical involvement; joining the Green Howards; serving in Hong Kong; interest in jazz; wins scholarship to Berklee School of Music.
Berklee with Herb [+–]
Studying in Boston; Herb Pomeroy; other students – Mike Gibbs, Gary Burton, Dusko Gojkovic, Paul Betjeman; recording and performing with the Berklee International Jazz Octet and Big Band; first homosexual experience; tour with the Jimmy Dorsey ‘ghost’ band; road accident on tour.
Return of the Native [+–]
return to UK; teaching privately; first group and gigs; first reviews; BBC broadcast; The Old Place/Little Theatre Club; Barry Summer School; Deep Dark Blue Centre; Arts Council Grant; Workpoints tour.
Down another Road [+–]
Harlow Festival commission; Down Another Road; influences as a jazz composer; managing a working band; jazz into schools; London Schools Jazz Orchestra; Songs for My Father; views of Collier as a bassist; festival commissions – Camden, Bradford.
Mosaics and The Alternate Mosaics; economic crisis and British jazz; film work; Harry Beckett and Flare Up; Montreux Jazz Festival; working in Europe; Portraits; NYJO.
‘Author! Author!’ [+–]
Depression; artistic values and aspirations; Wheel of Dreams – words and music project; Sea, Sky and Down and Children of Adam – commissions for Worthing Festival of Literature; writing on jazz – Inside Jazz, Jazz: A Student’s and Teacher’s Guide, Compositional Devices; relations with publishers; first venture into theatre; launches own label; Darius; European tour; Midnight Blue.
Glad to be Gay [+–]
Being a gay man in a straight jazz world; meets partner, John Gill; New Conditions; Cleo and John biography; Mosaic Records; UK and European tours; work in theatre, radio drama, TV and film.
The Day of the Dead [+–]
The Day of the Dead; enthusiasm for Malcolm Lowry; involvement with Malcolm Lowry Society; Symphony of Scorpions; Triptych; The Day of the Dead UK tour; October Ferry; homophobia and British jazz.
Mosaic Records releases; Mosaic collapse and court case; Indian tour; fortunes of British jazz – a new generation; Loose Tubes; Hoarded Dreams; disputes with jazz journalists; more homophobia.
Far East Tour; touring Greece and Israel; Something British Made in Hong Kong; teaching at the Royal Academy of Music; Plain Song and Mountain Birds.
Educating NYJO [+–]
Involvement in jazz education; RAM; relationship with Bill Ashton; attitude to NYJO; Churchill Fellowship and USA research trip; International Association of Schools of Jazz and International Association of Jazz Education; editing Jazz Changes magazine; views on American jazz education; disputes with other IASJ members.
Development of jazz degree course at RAM; views of colleagues and students; RAM jazz recordings; RAM/Rimon School (Israel) collaboration; Charles River Fragments; resignation from and subsequent dispute with RAM.
The Last Suites [+–]
Third Colour; move to Andalucía; Winter Oranges; George Haslam and Meltdown; Western Australia, The Collective and Bread & Circuses; London Jazz Festival and Directing 14 Jackson Pollocks; move to Skopelos.
career overview; aesthetic values and Collier’s approach to jazz; The jazz composer reconsidered; approach to conducting; Collier and George Russell; jazz, the arts and funding issues; jazz as an ‘art music’; The Blue Suite and Luminosity.