"…jazz happens in real time, once…These performances are typical of what was happening in what is now seen as a golden age of British jazz…"- Graham Collier
As jazz was slowly tearing itself away from its roots and becoming more and more of an underground phenomenon in America, the seeds had been planted around the world. Britain proved to be fertile soil and soon America itself was looking across The Pond for future jazz talents. Even the prestigious Berklee College of Music was opening its doors to British musicians. Graham Collier was invited on a scholarship and became that school's first English alumnus. This was in 1963, a time where there were no schools offering any kind of formal jazz training in Britain. This changed in 1967 when the Arts Council of Great Britain offered its first jazz award. This groundbreaking honor went to, you guessed it, Graham Collier. Now commissioned by the Arts Council, Mr Collier went about writing, rehearsing and performing a compositional jazz suite which he entitled "Workpoints". His band became known as the GrahamCollierDozen and performed this suite to critical acclaim in certain prestigious British theaters.
Nearly four decades later, Cuneiform has released the "Workpoints" concert as part of a 2-disc set, aptly titled "Workpoints". Disc I is from a concert in Southampton and presents the GrahamCollierDozen playing 6 tracks, including the 4-part "Workpoints" suite. The disc features some superb compositional jazz that retains enough openness to allow the dozen members to roam freely within the musical guideposts provided by Mr Collier. Graham (bass, conductor) has a style which will make most jazz enthusiasts think of a certain Charles Mingus; who happens to be the Brit's idol. Although maybe not quite up to par with the jazz icon, Collier's "Workpoints" remains a very innovative and challenging piece of music that contains certain reference points but still has ample room for the dozen musicians assembled to breathe new and different lives into the piece with repeated performances. This recording marks the first time the suite has ever been released on record. Disc II showcases a sextet which only retains Graham Collier and trumpeter/fugelhornist Harry Beckett from the original dozen . An emphasis is placed on electric jazz during this 1975 performance in Belgium. We still get some superb Collier compositions where each member is given ample room to push the tracks in different directions, except there is more attention given to the electric guitar and piano, giving the numbers a slight fusion flavor. The 4-part "Darius" suite showcases the sextet's darker moments with some extremely exploratory moments for pianist Roger Dean ( the other Roger Dean). The two closing numbers, "Clear Moon" and "Mackerel Sky" are excerpts from a suite which was commissioned by the Swedish Radio Big Band. The program was to feature 2 members from Collier's outfit, guitarist Ed Speight and the above mentioned Beckett. Both musicians figure prominently on these 2 numbers.
"Workpoints" is not a disc for the casual jazz fan. It is not a disc I'd recommend to a jazz newbie either. It is , however, an excellent double CD for fans of late 60s/ early 70s jazz who still enjoy a certain amount of composition and structure in their jazz, along with equal moments of freedom and artistic expression from talented musicians.
Disc I: Southampton,England, March 1968
- Deep Dark Blue Centre (18:13)
- The Barley Mow (5:45)
- Workpoints- part one (12:46)
- Workpoints- part two (10:14)
- Workpoints- part three (11:17)
- Workpoints- part four (16:31)
Disc II- Middleheim, Belgium, August 1975
- Little Ben (18:50)
- Under The Pier (6:00)
- Darius- part one (9:27)
- Darius- part three (13:18)
- Darius- part four (8:01)
- Darius- part one reprise (4:08)
- Clear Moon (6:33)
- Mackerel Sky (6:27)