Colin Towns - Back from the brink

Keyboard player and composer Colin Towns is on the way back after his record company Provocateur skirted with disaster in the wake of the collapse of its distributors. Once the most adventurous and ideas-driven indie jazz record label in the UK, with a motto to match, “improvise not compromise”, a hostile record business climate brought the label close to the point of collapse. Best known for releases by Andy Sheppard and Guy Barker, whose album Soundtrack was Mercury nominated, Towns and his label, with a slimmed down staff and a more cautious approach, are set for a busy autumn, especially with his Frank Zappa-themed big band album and a major tour on the horizon. Duncan Heining talks to Towns about the once dark days at Provocateur, the green shoots of recovery and why there’s nothing sacred with Zappa. And in the following feature he talks to Norma Winstone about her new album on Towns’ label. Colin Towns - Back from the brink
In a business full of good and bad intentions, Towns has tried harder than most to do the right thing by the musicians he’s worked with as a band leader and as a record label boss. Mistakes might get made perhaps, disasters might happen but the balance sheet leans firmly to the good.

Towns’ label Provocateur has just been revitalised with Lend Me Your Ears, his new album of original compositions with the German radio-backed NDR Big Band, and with Norma Winstone’s new album. Times have been hard for a label that started out with such high hopes but Towns is once again looking forward. With these new releases, now issued in the UK and an autumn UK tour with Norma and the NDR then another with Frank Zappa’s Hot Licks And

Funny Smells, also with the NDR, the future’s brighter now.
We talked at Thames TV studios where Towns was attending a screening of Cold Blood II, a drama for which he’s written the music. As well as providing his main income, film and TV work have provided Colin with the means of subsidising his jazz work, including Provocateur.

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