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Recorded live at the Ronnie Scott Club, October 1969
“Graham Collier was the first British musician to win a scholarship to, and graduate from, the Berklee School of Music in Boston, USA. In this live session, he features mostly material from his recent LP Down Another Road, one item of which features an exciting solo by the group’s pianist, Karl Jenkins, on an unusual double (for jazz) – the oboe.” Radio Times, issue 2395, 4th October 1969.
1. Down Another Road (Collier)
2. Molewrench (Collier)
3. Lullaby For A Lonely Child (Jenkins)
4. Aberdeen Angus (Collier)
Harry Beckett – flugelhorn
Stan Sulzmann – tenor sax
Nick Evans – trombone
Karl Jenkins – piano, oboe
Graham Collier – bass
John Marshall – drums
From the Colin Drury reel tape archive
Audio restoration Chris Martyn
Photograph by Harry Monty
Liner notes by Duncan Heining
Special thanks to Colin, Chris, Harry and Duncan
Design by Pete Woodman
Produced by John Thurlow
© & ℗ Jazz In Britain Ltd 2023
released April 8, 2023
This recording of the Graham Collier Sextet is taken from the BBC 2 TV series Jazz Scene at the Ronnie Scott Club and was broadcast on 7th October 1969. Those were very different times. Just three TV channels and four national radio stations – how did we survive? Listening to the music of the era and knowing the opportunities those years offered to musicians like Collier, the answer is “pretty darned well!”
BBC 2 had been established to provide more ambitious programming than its more populist sibling. Jazz 625 was the channel’s first jazz offering and ran for eighteen episodes between 1964-1966. Jazz Scene lasted from 1969-1970 totalling thirty-two episodes. In theory, the channel was an ideal host for the left-field music that was coming out of the British scene at the time. However, when its run came to an end, a decision was clearly taken not to recommission or replace the series. Jazz on BBC television over the next few years – and beyond – would be confined to segments on general arts programmes and occasional TV specials.
Explaining why this was so is beyond my brief here. What I would stress is that a change was in the air culturally and jazz was a victim of that change not least in terms of its access to broadcast media. By the early seventies, Britain was shifting away from the cultural pluralism that had characterised the previous decade. Composer/bandleaders like Graham Collier would continue to produce important music over their careers. The difference was that they would do so in the margins and often against the odds.
Collier was, in many ways, cannier than most of his peers in creating work opportunities. He became adept at getting money out of arts bodies, his groups played in schools, he ran workshops, he wrote books on jazz and composed music for radio plays and films. In fact, quite how he did all that while running a regular band is simply astonishing. But thank crikey he did.
As Collier’s biographer, I refuse to pander to the notion that musicians like Collier, Michael Garrick, Mike Westbrook and others were at their creative peak in those heady years. Yet, I must allow that the music these artists made then – not least a consequence of working with top producers and engineers and recording in top-flite studios – offers a unique glimpse into a special time. The music of these jazz pioneers has an immediacy and sense of urgency, as if they felt that their time had come. Everything seemed possible, for a moment at least, and I hear a lot of that in these four tracks recorded live at the Scott Club.
This set is taken from the newly released Fontana album, Down Another Road, perhaps the most immediately accessible of Collier’s albums. These tunes are soulful and funky and the band is tight and wonderfully assured on the title track with elegant and passionate solos from Harry Beckett and Stan Sulzman. “Molewrench” follows with Karl Jenkins’ oboe lending the tune a strong middle-eastern, modal vibe before Nick Evans’ rumbunctious trombone leads the band in a different, more downhome bluesy direction.
Karl Jenkins’ “Lullaby for a Lonely Child” was one of a few compositions Collier would record by other writers. It reminds one that Jenkins and the group’s drummer, John Marshall would very soon depart to join Nucleus with Ian Carr. Indeed, there were certainly stylistic parallels between Collier’s early bands and Nucleus. Part of that might be down to John Marshall but, for me, such similarities have more to do with the way that both bands seemed to be able to create a feeling of space in the music but, at the same time, maintain a sense of groove and forward movement.
The sextet closes with “Aberdeen Angus” driven by a rock backbeat from Marshall and gospel piano from Jenkins before Beckett spits fire from his fluegelhorn shadowed by Evans and Sulzman in an amazing outpouring of musical joy and freedom. At that moment, what might be or what the future held couldn’t matter less. All that mattered was the music in the here and now. As Collier was wont to say – “Jazz happens in real time, once!” And that’s just what you hear in these four tracks delivered to you by Jazz In Britain. Enjoy!
Duncan Heining, April 2023
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