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Tom Collier: Across the Bridge

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Tom Collier’s new album, Across the Bridge, is an exhilarating collection of modern jazz-rock originals inspired by his childhood “on the other side of the West Seattle Bridge.” Collier, who has taught percussion studies at the University of Washington since 1980 and is primarily a vibraphonist, recruited two of today’s best genre-bending guitarists, Larry Coryell and Bill Frisell, to help make this music. The personnel switches up from track to track-Coryell plays on four of the nine, Frisell on three; bassist Dan Dean does double duty on guitar on two; and drummers John Bishop and Ted Poor take turns-but the aesthetic is unified from start to finish. Collier plays both vibraphone and marimba here, and his approach ranges from hyper-aggressive to introspective. On the album’s bookends, “The Junction” and “Across the Bridge,” he sounds as though he’s trying to give himself carpal tunnel.

The group doesn’t settle into one style of music. “Beach Drive,” a rock song with snares on the upbeats, allows Collier and Frisell to get in some bluesy solos. There is one funk song (“The Admiral’s Point of View”-listen for Poor’s excellent drum fills), one hard fusion tune (“Harmonious Effusion on Olga Street,” where Dean’s guitar evokes ’70s prog), one ballad (the dreamy “Genesee”), a couple of light-rock songs (“47th ‘N’ Hudson” and “Fauntleroy Mist”) and one tune that swings (“Gold ‘N’ Blues”). Collier doesn’t break any ground on Across the Bridge, but he has created an utterly enjoyable, thoroughly modern fusion album.

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Originally Published