Graham Collier, 1937 – 2011
Jazz happened in real time, once,
in Parma, Italy, in November
Graham’s good friend and colleague, the admired Italian composer, bassist and bandleader Roberto Bonati, programmed and conducted an “omaggio” to Graham at the 2011 Parmajazz Frontiere Festival in his hometown of Parma, in northern Italy, in November. Conducting Ruvido Insieme (uncertain trans: “rough assembly”), a seventeen-piece big band that he and Graham had worked with in workshops and concerts in 2009, Roberto gave a magnificent example of “moving music off the paper” in a set that included old and new pieces, from a radically re-imagined ‘Aberdeen Angus’ to the title piece from Winter Oranges and ‘Out Blues’ from The Third Colour, as well as what amounted to the European premiere of one of the last of Graham’s longer pieces, The Blue Suite (2006), an, ahem, post-structuralist meditation on Kind of Blue. Roberto also gave the first performance of a piece he had written as a tribute to Graham, ‘Quiet Sea’, a gorgeous folk-tinged work that might, with its martial percussion and swaying rhythms, have been a wink to Nino Rota or perhaps even Roberto essaying his own take on Miles Davis’s ‘Vonetta’ factor from Sorcerer. Even if it was Roberto taking it for a walk, the dog still had the owner’s name on its collar, and thanks to Roberto it was entirely in the spirit that Graham intended his music to be taken and remade by others. As someone said in very bad phrasebook Italian over pizza afterwards, Graham was very much there in spirit that evening, applauding.
photos courtesy of Pietro Bandini/Phocus Agency
It’s hoped that this was just the first of many concerts in this 75th birthday year and beyond, and there are already discussions under way of similar events in London, Athens, Australia and elsewhere.
And as Graham had already taken it upon himself to recommend his work to friends, Roberto’s own recordings, such as the ‘fragments from Moby-Dick’ featured in his A Silvery Silence, his ‘study for Lady Macbeth’, The Blanket of the Dark, his multi-media investigation of the murder of Pier Paolo Pasolini on Un Sospeso Silenzio, and others, all of which accompanied the recent retooling of the jazzcontinuum website, should be sought out in earnest. In fact, you can watch Roberto’s trio performing their exquisite ‘Miserere II’ from the November festival at YouTube, where there are a number of other YouTube films of various Bonati pieces, including the Pasolini project.
Below is a YouTube posting by our friends at ParmaJazz Frontiere of Roberto conducting Ruvido Insieme in the premiere of his gorgeous tribute to Graham, ‘Quiet Sea’.
While below is their full-on reading of the title track from Winter Oranges.
Their rambunctious rendition of ‘Aberdeen Angus’ should follow shortly.
The good folks at ParmaJazz are also promising to upload a hi res version of parts of the 2009 concert that Graham himself conducted. We expect it to be up in a matter of weeks, when there will also be a link to it here. (It is now on the homepage here.) Enjoy!