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Graham Collier - Down Another Road, Songs for My Father, Mosaics
on 27 October 2013
Graham Collier was quite a big name in British jazz in the late sixties and early seventies. Judging from this 2 disc set, and 2 others issued by the same label, interest in him seems to be reviving. He is certainly a significant figure in the history of British modern jazz but was never wholly my cup of tea, and after listening to this reissue, that is still the situation. The set comprises 3 original records spread over 2 C.D's, all recorded in the period 1969 to 1971.
The first set,'Down Another Road' is by a sextet consisting of Harry Beckett, Nick Evans on trombone, Stan Sulzmann on alto and tenor saxes, Karl Jenkins on piano and oboe, Graham on bass and John Marshall on drums. Evans, who later went into rock music, has a full tone and plays well, although he doesn't have the fastest of techniques. Sulzmann plays with a much harder tone than later in his career and is probably the best soloist. Jenkins plays some fairly firm piano and his oboe, featured quite extensively, is very adept and gives a whole new tonal variation to the band. Collier is very supportive on bass, as is Marshall on drums. The music is very varied and quite complex but also descriptive of its subject matter. 'The Barley Mow', for example, does picture a bucolic country pub quite accurately. At least, it convinced me.
'Songs For My Father' has Beckett again,Alan Wakeman and Bob Sydor on saxes,John Taylor on piano, Collier and John Webb on drums, but this time other musicians are added track by track. They include Tony Roberts and Alan Skidmore on tenors, Phil Lee on guitar,and Derek Wadsworth on trombone. This results in all four tenors playing on some tracks, which does not help tonal variety. Wadsworth throughout and Wakeman when playing soprano are the pick of the soloists, but John Taylor (very early in his career and Phil Lee (an oasis of calm) also play well. Indeed, nobody plays badly. The songs are simply numbered 1 to 7 with nothing to indicate any personal meaning they may have. They are more complex than on the earlier session but less attractive.
'Mosaics' is by the same sextet as the second session but with Geoff Castle in for John Taylor and no guests. The sleeve describes the music as 'musical fragments' but does not say of what. It's not free music and seems fairly controlled although there are no tunes as such. The solo work is competent but not memorable. To me this is much the weakest of the three sessions.
What I have not mentioned is Harry Beckett, apart from Graham the only ever present. He plays with a soft tone and it can be difficult to tell when he is on trumpet or flugelhorn. A lot of the time he starts a solo well but it gradually trails off into some involved muttering. Having said that some of his solos are quite literally beautiful, as on 'The Barley Mow' where he traces delicate attractive lines.
All in all, a bit of a curate's egg.