The Jazz Composer: Moving Music Off the Paper by Graham Collier

Bassist/educator/composer/ Collier often states that his mantra is “Jazz happens in real time ,once” and that this represents a challenge for the jazz composer since the composition is but the basis for the performance; what the musicians bring to it is what ultimately determines artistic success. He correctly states that the book emphasizes larger ensembles, and he provides an interesting survey of jazz composition for them with a good deal of emphasis on Duke, Mingus, and Gil Evans.

Collier’s writing style is brisk and entertaining, partially because of his willingness to digress from the subject. This spices the book up, but too often at the expense of the subject.

Digressions with personal anecdotes and his opinions on the plastic arts, the Marsalis circle, and the state of jazz writing occur frequently and are not always of worth.

Collier has wisely combined the section detailing various compositional techniques he uses that are designed to give the musical director and the musicians more freedom with good musical notation backed by aural references on the companion web site. This is the most original and worthwhile part of the book and might inspire, or, at the least, provide new working methods to aspiring composers who will probably benefit from reading this book and considering the musical examples.