Relook+ live: memorial concert
at the 2012 London Jazz Festival
(L-R) Roger Dean, Steve Waterman, Ed Speight, Art Themen, Martin Shaw, John Marshall, Geoff Warren, Mike Lovatt, Graeme Blevins, Gordon Campbell, Roy Babbington, Julian Siegel, Andy Grappy, Jonathan Williams, Andy Panayi.
Our thanks to Graham Lambourne for permission to reprint the photograph.
The London Jazz Festival memorial concert of Graham’s music recorded on 14 November was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 at 11pm on Sunday 25 November 2012. Plans are under way to reconvene a similar line-up as a revived The Jazz Ensemble to record Graham’s last two suites in London in the summer of 2013, hopefully for a release later in the year.
The concert featured the British premiere of Graham’s penultimate work, The Blue Suite, as well as a selection of his and the musicians’ personal favourites from the Collier canon. The BBC Radio Big Band was conducted by flautist-saxophonist Geoff Warren, a key Collier player for more than thirty years, and also featured Collier stalwarts such as Roger Dean, John Marshall, Ed Speight, Art Themen and Steve Waterman, as well as former Collier collaborators including Roy Babbington, Graeme Blevins and Andy Grappy, and special guest Jonathan Williams (French horn). The complete line-up was as above.
While the concert over-ran its allotted time, sections excised from the broadcast, such as ‘Under the Pier’, may well be broadcast separately at a later date. We’ll keep you posted.
Lowry journal salutes Graham
The Firminist, a British occasional journal celebrating the life and work of novelist Malcolm Lowry dedicates its latest issue, a special exploration of Lowry and music, to Graham. Named after Geoffrey Firmin, the protagonist of Lowry’s great novel Under the Volcano, the journal is a lively and irreverent mix of academia, psychogeography and the sort of post-modern larks only Lowry buffs know how to get up to. The current issue includes a lengthy essay by Graham on his use of Lowry’s work in his music, as well as an insightful appreciation of same by Firminist editor Mark Goodall. You can read about the magazine and subscribe at its website here.
Graham Collier - Live in Parma, 2009
Jazz also happened in real time, once,
in Parma, Italy, in 2009
Thanks to the stirling efforts of Valentina Bonazzi and her colleagues at the ParmaFrontiere Jazz organization in Parma, Italy (is there another?), I am now able to post the full video of Graham conducting the Orchestra Jazz del Conservatorio “A. Boito” di Parma performing his penultimate major composition, ‘The Blue Suite’, at the 2009 ParmaJazz Frontiere Festival, an imaginative contemporary jazz festival programmed and directed by the estimable Roberto Bonati. Valentina and her colleagues had to break the 46-minute suite down into its five parts to meet YouTube limitations on the length of uploads, which is how I am presenting it here. Eagle-eyed friends and fans will spot that the video was shot in the so-called ‘sixteen-nine’ ratio, a widescreen format that has, unfortunately, given Graham a girth comparable to Henry the Eighth, his accompanying orchestra members and the audience similar funhouse-mirror appearances, so bear that in mind while viewing.
Graham’s preparatory notes for this piece, which will form part of the sleevenotes for the double CD I am hoping to release of his last two compositions, explain that in February 2006 (and until the February of the next year) he was tinkering with the idea of writing a new piece, which would eventually be premiered in completed form in Parma in 2009.
His initial inspiration was a line from Eric Nisenson’s book Blue: The Murder of Jazz (St Martin’s Press, 1997), a polemic against the “select cadre that has a choke hold on the most vital components of jazz itself”. Citing Keith Jarrett referencing Miles Davis’s famous refusal to visit his musical past, Nisenson denounced the jazz nostalgia industry, commenting: “Playing music that has been thoroughly explored decades in the past is like rediscovering New Jersey.”
As someone who spent most of his days with the recorded works of Charles Ives just a few feet away from his desk, Graham started noting punning titles for the new work: ‘Three Places in New Jersey’ was one, the funnier ‘The Unquestioned Answer’ another. But he still didn’t have the Collier mojo that would drive a work “to encourage people to try to find something new in a jazz world that doesn’t seem to care”.
On February 13 2006, his work notes recorded this: “After a few days off it all came this morning. I now have four sections, all loosely based on Kind of Blue.”
These pieces were:
‘Kind of Sketchy’: one soloist plays line then others join
‘Kind of So What’: 32 bar ‘modal’ form with twists
‘Kind of Freddie’: tension-resolve in unusual form
‘Kind of Green’: some unusual chord movements
You won’t actually hear any of the Miles Davis compositions in these pieces, as they are not inspired by the compositions so much as by the ‘compositional devices’ behind them, as explained in Graham’s one-line synopsis of each piece.
He took this version of the suite, now called ‘The Blue Suite’, to Canada that year for a concert at the University of Victoria with his friend Hugh Fraser, but spent most of the year working on his last book, the jazz composer: moving music off the paper. In February 2007, a few days before his 70th birthday, which we celebrated in Barcelona, he added a fifth and final section. His notes record: “I suddenly got the idea that I should ‘do’ the remaining tune, ‘All Blues’”:
‘All Kinds’: a melody which can be played over most of the bass lines and then again, sloppily, at the end.
That same year, Graham had the epiphany on Hydra that led to our selling up in Spain and, having discovered it while researching the Greek islands on the internet, moving to Skopelos, a mudanza that put a lot of projects on hold in the short term. The finished final five-part suite received its European premiere at the JazzFrontiere Jazz Festival on 22 November 2009.
He pre-empted any comments about the hand-clap segments of ‘Kind of So What’ and ‘All Kinds’ sounding like Steve Reich’s ‘Clapping Music’ by insisting that he hadn’t even heard the Reich, which I can confirm. The only copy of ‘Clapping Music’ in our house is concealed deep in a Reich 10-CD box set in my study, and remained there throughout Graham’s work on ‘The Blue Suite’!
More from Parma 2009
The ParmaJazz Frontiere concert actually began with a Collier classic, ‘Under the Pier’, followed by ‘Colours/Out Blues’ from The Third Colour, and the concert ended with an encore of another Collier favourite, ‘Aberdeen Angus’.
The footage of Roberto Bonati and his Ruvido Insieme (“rough assembly”) ensemble performing their Omaggio a Graham Collier can still be found at the Omaggio a Graham link at the top of this page.
Normal jazzcontinuum transmissions continue below.
‘On any short list of the most polemical writers in jazz today, [Graham Collier] is fighting for the top spot.’
Ted Gioia, jazz.com
‘Your discussion of what I like to think of as the jazz identity crisis (i.e., what is jazz and who are we?) is forthright and raises many fascinating issues.’
George E. Lewis, Columbia University
The Guardian revisits ‘Lullaby for a Lonely Child’,
with John Marshall as guide
The newspaper’s continuing “Old Music” series, aimed at highlighting classic material that might otherwise go unremembered, this week caught up with Karl Jenkins’s ‘Lullaby for a Lonely Child’, from 1969’s Down Another Road. Journalist Jon Dennis interviewed John Marshall about the session and about the era itself, and in their conversation the two Jo[h]ns parked a small sliver of musical history in the public domain. You can read the article and hear the piece here.
jazzcontinuum is a three-part interconnected site about jazz and related matters, by and about the veteran British jazz composer Graham Collier.
The site has been restructured from the old jazzcontinuum site, and much of the material originally published there will appear here in due course.
jazzcontinuum is also the name of a record label dedicated to keeping Graham Collier’s catalogue permanently available. Click on CDs and Downloads in the menu bar above.
jazz continuum, the name of this site, reflects his view that there is a continuum between the music of the past and what is happening in the best of today’s jazz.
‘jazz happens in real time, once’, the sub-heading, is Graham Collier’s mantra, which he believes should be at the heart of all that is called jazz.
The main entry point to this site is an ongoing Comments column which records Graham’s thoughts on the current state of jazz and jazz composition as well as drawing attention to ideas and events both inside and outside the genre.
Spinning off from this is Writings, the development of these ideas in new or previously written essays and articles, and Choices, entries about anything and everything that should be better known, including trumpeter Harry Beckett, whose death in 2010 was a great loss.
Graham Collier’s previous jazzcontinuum site has been split into two new sites, grahamcolliermusic.com which deals with his life and career as well as recent news, and thejazzcomposer.com a site concentrating on his last book, the jazz composer, moving music off the paper, a philosophical study of jazz composing, and of jazz itself. It asks serious questions about how a music which is meant to be creative, so rarely is. (George Lewis’s quote above is from his comments on the book.)
Graham Collier’s music can be heard in this 13 minute montage. The audio file will open in a new window so you can listen while you look through the site.
Please click on the link below to contact us with any comments on his music or anything he wrote.