Graham Collier’s career in jazz lasted over five decades. He was a bassist, a band-leader, a composer, an educator and an author, who wrote extensively about the music. His working life was littered with ‘firsts’. Amongst his many achievements, he was the first British jazz musician to study at the Berklee School of music in Boston and the first to receive an Arts Council grant. In 1985, Collier began teaching at the Royal Academy of Music, where he later established the first full-time jazz degree course in the UK in 1987.
Mosaics draws extensively on Collier’s personal archive, as well as on interviews with fellow musicians, ex-students and colleagues from the Royal Academy of Music. It locates Collier and his work within the social and cultural changes which occurred during his life and, particularly, in relation to developments in British and European jazz of the 1960s and 70s. Collier’s work as a composer-bandleader represented an attempt to resolve the paradoxes inherent in jazz between composition and improvisation, familiarity and spontaneity and change and tradition. In this regard, Mosaics compares Collier’s work with other composers such as Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Gil Evans, Mike Westbrook, Stan Tracey, Barry Guy and Butch Morris.
Throughout, Collier emerges as a contradictory figure falling between several different camps. He was never an out-and-out musical, cultural or political radical but rather an individualist continually forced to confront the contradictions in his own position – a musical outsider working within a marginalised area of cultural activity; a gay man operating in a very male area of the music business and within heterosexist culture in general; a man of working class origins stepping outside traditionally prescribed class boundaries; and a musician-composer seeking individual solutions to collective problems of aesthetic and ethical value.
Published: Mar 5, 2018
Mosaics presents a fascinating picture of a rich, multi-faceted life. It readily acknowledges that Collier was often single-minded in his dedication to strongly held views and sometimes perhaps unwisely persistent in his pursuit of same, but more importantly (like its stablemates on Tubby Hayes and Stan Tracey), it provides a valuable celebration of the work and legacy of one of the UK’s most important and influential musical figures.
London Jazz News
A hugely important and influential figure within the UK hotbed of modern-jazz musicians in the 60s and into the 70s. This is the latest in Equinox's attractively presented series of hardbacks on jazz subjects, and it's another erudite and academic assessment of a leading proponent of the music who determinedly ploughed his own - very deep - furrow. Duncan Heining's research embraces his own interviews with Collier and his associates, a thorough perusal of contemporary press coverage and sharply incisive and forensic analysis of the recordings in the Collier catalogue.
This is a very honest, very readable book, about a complex man. One of its incidental pleasures is that it gives a comprehensive picture of jazz in the second half of the last century in the UK. Heining says that his purpose in writing the book: ‘is my hope that readers will come to an appreciation of Collier’s rightful place in jazz - as a composer, educator and theorist.’ Heining succeeds in his objective.
One can't imagine a better biographer for this subject than Heining. He knows the work inside out and has spoken to anyone of consequence who crossed paths with Graham during his long career. Heining does a splendid job in discussing distinct aspects of Collier's work and life in separate chapters rather than trying to run with several simultaneous threads. But he is always most convincing when he engages with the music. [Collier] was a gentleman and a scholar, and he has found a gentle and scholarly biographer in Duncan Heining.
Brian Morton, Jazz Journal
[Collier's life] was one singularly marked with contrast and brave innovations and they are ably set down in Duncan Heining's biography. Heining documents his life with detailed scholarship and many interviews with fellow musicians. Like this book [Collier's recordings] are an enduring reminder of Collier's powerful musical brain and heart.
Chris Searle, Morning Star