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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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Down Another Road/Songs For My Father/Mosaics

BGO Records BGOCD 767




Down Another Road

1. Down Another Road
2. Danish Blue
3. The Barley Mow
4. Aberdeen Angus
5. Lullaby for a Lonely Child
6. Molewrench
Songs For My Father

1. Song One (Seven-Four)
2. Song Two (Ballad)
3. Song Three (Nine-Eight Blues)

Songs For My Father

1. Song Four (Waltz in Four-Four)
2. Song Five (Rubato)
3. Song Six (Dirge)
4. Song Seven (Four-Four Figured)

5. Mosaics Part One: Theme 1
6. Mosaics Part Two: Themes 4, 2 and 3
7. Mosaics Part Three: Themes 4 and 6
8. Mosaics Part Four: Themes 2 and 8
Graham Collier - Bass
Harry Beckett - Trumpet, flugelhorn
Stan Sulzmann - Alto sax, tenor sax (CD1, tracks 1-6)
Nick Evans - Trombone (CD1, tracks 1-6)
Karl Jenkins - Oboe, piano (CD1, tracks 1-6)
John Marshall - Drums (CD1, tracks 1-6)
Alan Wakeman - Tenor sax, soprano sax (CD1, tracks 7-9; CD2)
Bob Sydor - Tenor sax, alto sax (CD1, tracks 7-9; CD2)
John Taylor - Piano (CD1, tracks 7-9; CD2, tracks 1-4)
John Webb - Drums (CD1, tracks 7-9; CD2)
Tony Roberts - Tenor sax (CD1, track7; CD2, tracks 2, 4)
Alan Skidmore - Tenor sax (CD1, track 7; CD2, tracks 2, 4)
Philip Lee - Guitar (CD1, track 7; CD2, track 4)
Derek Wadsworth - Trombone (CD1, tracks 7-9; CD2, track 4)
Geoff Castle - Piano (CD2, tracks 5-8)

His 70th birthday was widely celebrated last year, but British bassist-composer Graham Collier is in danger of neglect, although albums like this may keep his name in people's minds. This double CD contains three albums recorded in 1969 and 1970. His best-known recordings were made in the sixties and seventies, after which he spent much time as an internationally-known educator, particularly as artistic director of the jazz course at London's Royal Academy of Music in the eighties and nineties.

In fact the first of the albums on this set has been in my collection since it was released on LP. I suppose when I bought it I was most impressed by some of the musicians in the band he led then (in 1969), including saxist Stan Sulzmann, trumpeter Harry Beckett, master drummer John Marshall, and oboist/pianist Karl Jenkins (latterly famous as the composer of such works as Adiemus). Collier's music was also impressive, as he was an open-minded composer searching for new ways of jazz expression.

This is evident in Down Another Road, an album which embraced a wide range of different styles. The title-track is brightened by a fine tenor solo from Stan Sulzmann, although trombonist Nick Evans sounds as if he was struggling. Danish Blue includes a segment of free jazz which moves into more orderly territory. Aberdeen Angus is an example of jazz-rock: very funky, with a dynamic drum solo by John Marshall. Note how Marshall keeps his hihat playing four-in-a-bar, to add to the band's impetus. By contrast, Lullaby for a Lonely Child is a gently wistful composition, with a lyrical solo from Sulzmann. Graham Collier is, naturally, on double bass throughout but he never pushes himself forward as a soloist.

Ever in search of the new, Collier kept changing the personnel of his groups, so that the second album here, Songs For My Father, uses a basic sextet which includes Harry Beckett and pianist John Taylor, augmented by extra musicians for particular tracks. The album experiments with various moods and time signatures (e.g. 7/4 and 9/8). Again, good melodies are mingled with shafts of discord and even anarchy. Alan Wakeman's soprano sax is outstanding in Song Two (Ballad), wailing passionately. Song Three hobbles along in 9/8 time - not exactly a perfect tempo for a blues! Song Four works rather better, despite its contradictory description of "Waltz in four-four". Song Five (Rubato) is mainly noisy free improvisation. Song Six (Dirge) opens with Harry Beckett sounding skittish instead of dirge-like but he soon joins the other musicians in an elegiac dirge, while Song Seven is a straightforward tune which still allows for discords.

The third album of the set, Mosaics, takes experimentation a step further by giving the players a number of musical fragments which they can play whenever they feel the urge. Unfortunately this format encourages a lot of tentative doodling, with too vague a structure for the musicians, who often struggle to make musical sense. Harry Beckett's contributions hang together better than most.

So this double CD contains some challenging music as well as some pleasurable solos and interesting ensembles. In a way, the three albums appear in descending order of accessibility. Potential listeners must be as open-minded as Collier to appreciate everything his groups do, but the vital point is that he was never content to stand still.

Tony Augarde





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