Recorded live March 1968, Student’s Union Debating Society, Southampton University Spring Arts Festival. Cuneiform 213/214 [2CD]

Kenny Wheeler, Harry Beckett, Henry Lowther, trumpet, flugelhorn; Chris Smith, Mike Gibbs, John Mumford, trombone; Dave Aaron, alto, tenor and soprano saxophone, flute; Karl Jenkins, baritone and soprano saxophone, oboe, piano; John Surman, baritone and soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, piano; Frank Ricotti, vibraphone, bongos; Graham Collier, bass; John Marshall, drums

Deep Dark Blue Centre (Collier) 18:13

The Barley Mow (Collier) 5:45

Workpoints – Part One (Collier) 12:46

Workpoints – Part Two (Collier) 10:14

Workpoints – Part Three (Collier) 11:17

Workpoints – Part Four (Collier) 16:31

(First issued in 2005. The second CD in this set features a 1975 sextet concert without Surman.)

GIGS: Graham Collier – 17 March 1968, Purcell Room, Royal Festival Hall, London. Reviewed by Barry McRae in Jazz Journal 21/5 (May 1968): “March 17th saw the London premiere of ‘Workpoints’, the work written by Graham Collier under a bursary from the Arts Council. In keeping with his musical principles, Collier did  not produce a composition in which the parts were regimentally laid down. Instead, he provided an adaptable framework in which the men in his excellent, young band could move freely. Since this has always been his credo it is instructive to look beyond the single piece and examine the entire concert which included three selections of an earlier vintage.

All had a strongly collective flavour and it was difficult to draw the line between Collier’s contribution and the subtle coalescence of his sidemen. In either event, the individuality of Collier’s thematic suggestions offered outstanding launching pads for them. When the musical directions imparted by the leader were discernable with certainty, however, they revealed a genuine talent. The canonic build up by the band from a simple Kenny Wheeler/Dave Aaron unison was beautifully accommodated. A simple modal figure by Collier’s bass was taken up by each section to create contrasting stratas, above which a simple Karl Jenkins oboe solo was set. These were hardly revolutionary in themselves but were devices that were well integrated in the full orchestral panoply.

In contrast there were moments when Collier employed techniques that I have never heard outside his music. One case in point was his use of unison baritones to give a depth to the ensemble that reminded us of the bassist’s own instrument. The tonal quality of his trombone writing was also highly original, although in performance the trombone choir was occasionally rather stiff – a somewhat understandable state of affairs in view of the band’s lack of permanency as a unit.

Where Collier’s music really scores is in his realisation that the modern approach to jazz writing demands that ample space be left for individual expression. He was aided at this Purcell Room concert by some outstanding solo contributions. Kenny Wheeler’s exciting and highly professional trumpet, Harold Becket’s lyrical flugelhorn and John Mumford’s brassy and extrovert trombone were very prominent. John Surman was the outstanding voice and, as one of the most expressive players in Europe, was well suited to the atmosphere of the group. A new name to me was Frank Ricotti, a youthful and adventurous vibes discovery, who more than compensated for the occasional inaccuracy with a drive and fervour that will surely establish him as an important new voice.

One can only hope that the Arts Council authorities appreciate the extent of Collier’s success. With ‘Workpoints’, he was as much a musical ‘director’ as he was a composer. His writing avoided the stultifying effect that would have accrued from a more formal approach and the result was jazz that must have been as stimulating to play as it most certainly was to hear.”