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Graham Collier - Hoarded Dreams

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Artist: Graham Collier

Album: Hoarded Dreams

Label: Cuneiform

Review date: Apr. 4, 2007

Why a musician of Graham Collier’s stature is not more well known in the states, after all this time and with such credentials, is beyond me. Berklee College of Music’s first British graduate, an author of books on jazz and, most importantly, a composer of large-scale works demonstrating complete mastery, Collier has been active on the British jazz scene for more than 40 years. As with so many great but neglected artists, it is down to Cuneiform to facilitate exposure, and Hoarded Dreams equals, maybe even surpasses, his earlier Workpoints in intensity and musicianship.

Recorded live in front of an obviously appreciative audience in 1983, the power of the music is evident from the first trilling fanfares, blasted forth by a trumpet section including Thomas Stanko and Kenny Wheeler, among others. Amidst this star-studded extravaganza, it is wonderful to hear the freedom brought to the proceedings by the Finnish saxophonist Juhanni Aaltonen, whose own work is in dire need of reappraisal. In fact, every musician on this date brings chops and wisdom to a demanding and constantly changing piece of music.

The writing invokes various transgenerational elements of music history without any overt leanings toward the post-modern; fusion elements exist comfortably alongside more boppish excursions, tinged with a bit of classical nostalgia, as with the frenetic thwacks, electric jabs and unison blurts of "Part 6." In complete contrast, the opening of "Part 3," a meditatively wistful section, boasts some gorgeously subtle guitar work from Ed Speight, whose sustained tones and bends bring the music quietly but firmly up to date. The orchestrations are transparent and forthright by turn, as the music encompasses the whole dynamic and timbral spectrum over the course of its 70-minute trajectory.

There are simply too many fantastic solos to mention, several employing what is given the shamefully inadequate label “extended technique.” John Surman’s baritone saxophone blends innovation with tradition in one growling exhortation, but he is one of many. Voice merges with trombone, beautifully legato trumpets intertwine in rhapsodic dialogue, but all exists in the well-defined framework only a veteran composer can establish, a structure loose enough to allow drummer Ashley Brown to propel the proceedings forward, seemingly at will, tight enough to reveal facets of itself on each successive listen. This is one of the most invigorating big band releases I’ve heard in quite some time, and I hope there’s more where it came from.

By Marc Medwin

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