Graham Collier - Big It Up

Composer Graham Collier turns 70 this year. One of the leading UK jazz composers of his generation, his work has recently been rediscovered by younger musicians and audiences with a taste for his sophisticated arrangements. Duncan Heining talks to Collier, now resident in Spain, about his career and plans for his special birthday year. Graham Collier - Big It Up
It was back in 1961 that Graham Collier arrived in Boston with just his double bass and a change or two of clothes in tow. Graham, now one of our foremost jazz composers, was the first British student to win a scholarship to the prestigious Berklee School of Music. He was 24 years old and not long out of the army.

Born in Tyneside but brought up in Luton, Graham joined up as a band boy at 16, “not to get away from home but from Luton, which was a dreadful place,” he explains. He’d travelled with the army to Hong Kong and Germany and was known to have a liking and talent for jazz and dance band music. And so, his colleagues encouraged him to go in for a Downbeat competition for a scholarship to Berklee. 

It was an opportunity that Graham grabbed with both hands. Now, as he turns 70 this month, he looks over a career marked both by achievement and the inevitable struggles of the jazz world. Over those decades that followed, he’s been a musician, a composer, an author and an educator. And it all really began at Berklee.

“So, I entered the competition and got a very small scholarship but because I’d never lived in London, it was a way of going somewhere to learn, rather than go to London to work as a musician and scuffle and starve. So, I went to Boston and starved and scuffled, while I was learning.”

It was a golden age for Berklee. Mike Gibbs, Gary Burton, Sadao Watanabe, Heinz Bigler and Gabor Szabo were all there at that time, as Graham remembers. “We were the cream of it in one sense. We got on the recording band and were recognised as having the skills. We all had to work hard – except Gary Burton. [laughing] Gary was so big-headed then. He was just 17 and already a great vibes player.”

To read the rest of this article subscribe here

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Featured Artists

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
Prev Next
Jazz drumming and the vision of Jonathan Barber

Jazz drumming and the vision of Jonathan…

Kay Shackelford introduces a bold new force on the jazz drumming scene: Jonathan Barber When listening to Jonathan Barber, there’s an earful of innovative and thoughtful rhythmic execution that causes pause...

Read More.....
All aboard the Blue Note at Sea jazz cruise

All aboard the Blue Note at Sea jazz cru…

Jon Newey experiences the unique musical possibilities of the Blue Note at Sea jazz cruise It’s early Monday morning on 29 January and the day has dawned surprisingly clear. Overnight the grey...

Read More.....
Classic interview with Hugh Masekela: “Hey, instead of rhythm and blues, how about ghetto and Bach?”

Classic interview with Hugh Masekela: “H…

In 2010, Hugh Masekela, the great South African musician and an inspiration in the cultural and political struggle against apartheid, spoke candidly to Jazzwise's Marcus O'Dair about his continued to fight...

Read More.....
Frank Zappa's jazz legacy

Frank Zappa's jazz legacy

Frank Zappa left a huge legacy of pioneering music and outspoken opinions that has proved obliquely influential in shaping the style and attitudes of generations of rock and jazz musicians...

Read More.....
Across the tracks: Ella Fitzgerald's recording of Duke Ellington's ‘I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But The Blues’

Across the tracks: Ella Fitzgerald's rec…

Brian Priestley takes the opportunity to put Ella Fitzgerald’s soulful 1957 version of Ellington’s ‘I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But The Blues’ under the microscope It’s well known that Ella Fitzgerald had...

Read More.....
Life-changing jazz albums: 'My Song' by Keith Jarrett

Life-changing jazz albums: 'My Song' by …

Pianist Gwilym Simcock talks about the album that changed his life, 'My Song' by Keith Jarrett. Interview by Brian Glasser The biggest turning point I’ve ever had, it was a life-changing...

Read More.....
The shape of jazz to come: who to look out for in 2018

The shape of jazz to come: who to look o…

Photo: Rohey It’s time to divine the divine, as we ask our crack unit of writers and assorted other taste-formers to gaze into their crystal balls and reveal the intel on...

Read More.....
Top 20 Jazz Albums of 2017

Top 20 Jazz Albums of 2017

In another turbulent year of head-spinning change, much of it unwelcome, jazz has once again proved itself as resilient and inspirational as ever. Jazzwise’s prestigious Albums of the Year New...

Read More.....
John Etheridge interview: “We never got paid for Soft Machine. God knows what happened to the money”

John Etheridge interview: “We never got …

AJ Dehany caught up with Soft Machine’s John Etheridge and spoke to him about his formative fretboard influences and approaches to guitar playing, as well as penetrating the complex chronology...

Read More.....


Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

RT @beatsnpieces: Thanks @Jazzwise for premiering another track from our new 10th anniversary CD/DVD ’ten’ - this video is our recent singl…
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
@hhhhhennies Aeolian String Ensemble
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

© 2016 MA Business & Leisure Ltd registered in England and Wales number 02923699 Registered office: Jesses Farm, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, SP3 5HN . Designed By SE24 MEDIA