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Songs for My Father

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Album Review

Bassist, composer, and bandleader Graham Collier may have gotten the short shrift early in his career for not taking the same iconoclastic position Evan Parker and Derek Bailey did: "Forget American jazz, let's forge something uniquely British" (their pretensions were European though they weren't). His contributions to the jazz canon are finally being seen in light of what they actually are: very forward-looking works that extend the jazz boundary into new chromatic and harmonic regions and have an identity that is distinctly non-American. Collier's modalism is so far outside the norms as to speak an entirely different architectural language. Songs for My Father featured a Collier septet with Harry Beckett on trumpet, pianist John Taylor, saxophonists Alan Wakeman and Bob Sydor, and drummer John Webb. This unique look at shaping traditional jazz narratives in new modal and chromatic lights brings into consideration all of the developments of Coltrane's sonic inclusiveness (which Parker and Bailey did too, though they tried to minimize that aspect) and a dramatic range that leapt off from Gil Evans. The album's opener, "Song One," in elastic 7/4, is a case in point, where front lines collapse a hard bop figure into thirds and then extend the back of the line, where the horns become harmonic planks and Taylor moves around the time signature in counterpoint to the rhythm section. Wakeman's soprano solo is just breathtaking. The moving Spanish motif at the opening of "Song Two (Ballad)" is part of Collier's envisioning of a music he would later revisit with Day of the Dead. The shimmering angularity of "Song Five (Rubato)" is one of Collier's benchmarks as a jazz composer; his utilization of the interval as a way to stretch time in order to allow a melody to impose itself on the frame is remarkable. In sum, Songs for My Father is the first evidence listeners have of the maturing Collier, moving jazz aesthetics around in order to more fully articulate his sophisticated palette.


Born: 21 February 1937 in Tynemouth, England

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

English composer Graham Collier was the first British student to graduate from the Berklee College of Music. Collier won a scholarship in 1961, after playing more than seven years in an army band. He toured briefly in 1963 with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra playing bass, then returned to England where he formed the Graham Collier Ensemble. Through the '60s, '70s, and '80s, this group contained many of Britain's finest musicians, gathered to play Collier's original compositions. It varied in size and...
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Songs for My Father, Graham Collier
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