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September 2005

Graham Collier
Workpoints
Cuneiform Records

This two-CD set issues a pair of live performances led by the influential British bassist and composer Graham Collier. The first disc, titled “Work-points,” dates from 1968 and features a 12-piece band that includes the leader on bass and such progressively inclined British jazzmen as trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and saxophonist John Surman. The second, “Live in Middleheim,” was recorded in 1975 by Collier’s sextet.

The ’68 concert is arguably the more ambitious of the two. The group was formed after Collier received a commission from the Arts Council of Great Britain, and like much jazz composed to justify the receiving of grant money, its reach exceeds its grasp. The title suite alternates episodes of creative postbop writing with sections of solo and collective improvisations. There’s plenty of imagination at play—Collier’s composed lines are affecting, and the soloists are fine—but the music rambles a bit formlessly, lacking much of a center and never really peaking.

Collier’s ’75 small band is more effective. Although the tunes are somewhat remindful of Bob James-ish, Rhodes-centric ’70s jazz-rock, and therefore quite dated-sounding, the solos by trumpeter Harry Beckett and saxophonist Art Themen are very nice. Not especially earth-shattering stuff, this, but of some historical interest.

Originally published in September 2005
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