Jon Hiseman 1944-2018

Jon-Hiseman

One of the UK's foremost drummers and bandleaders, Jon Hiseman, who founded the innovative and influential jazz-prog band Colosseum in 1968 and played extensively across the jazz, prog-rock and session worlds died from cancer on 12 June, aged 73. Coming from a jazz background, Hiseman first came to attention with the gifted but wayward pianist Mike Taylor on Taylor's Pendulum album in 1964, now one of the rarest and most valuable of all UK jazz albums. He recorded Neil Ardley's Western Reunion in 1965 and Trio with Mike Taylor in 1966 before his driving swing and hard-hitting solos caught the eye of the Graham Bond Organisation in 1966, where he replaced Ginger Baker who had departed to form Cream.

While with Bond, Hiseman also played sessions, including with The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, and formed a robust working relationship with saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith. The pair left to join John Mayall in 1968 at a pivotal time when the big-selling Mayall was refashioning his Bluesbreakers into a more jazz-rock orientated band as the British blues boom looked to expand its musical horizons. The subsequent album, Bare Wires, hit number three on the national album charts, but Hiseman and Heckstall-Smith were already plotting their next move. They left to form Colosseum, whose debut, For Those Who Are About To Die We Salute You, was released in 1969. Together with follow-up Valentyne Suite, it stands as a cornerstone of the then-burgeoning prog-rock and jazz-rock scenes on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as becoming a much sampled favourite of the acid-jazz generation. Hiseman's relentless work ethic also found him recording Peter Lemer's 1968 Local Colour album, which had a 50th anniversary reunion performance at Pizza Express Jazz Club in February 2018, as well as Jack Bruce's Things We Like and Songs For A Tailor.

Following Colosseum's break up in 1971, Hiseman formed Tempest with Allan Holdsworth and refigured Colosseum 11 in 1975 for three albums before extensive live and recording work with the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble and with his wife, saxophonist Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia. Both he and Barbara opened a recording studio and produced a number of TV and film soundtracks, while he also produced and engineered albums by Nucleus and Keith Tippett, among others. A biography, Playing In The Band, written by Martyn Hanson was published in 2010 and Hiseman had recently formed a new prog-rock power trio, JCM, with former Colosseum alumni, Clem Clemson and Mark Clarke. The 50th reunion with Peter Lemer in February was a memorable night and saw a sold-out audience of fellow players and long-standing jazz industry names come to pay respect at what ultimately proved to be one of this outstanding drummer's final performances.

– Jon Newey

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