Corey Mwamba


Graham Collier has passed away

Very saddened to hear about Graham Collier.

I met Graham with Harry Beckett when Argentum played at the London Jazz Festival. I spoke for a long time with Harry, and we'd actually suggested a idea of working together; but I didn't really speak much to Graham at all, although he was really friendly when we did.

I then got an e-mail from him congratulating me on the Argentum piece on the Jazzwise DVD, which was a surprise since in some ways the piece is very constructed. But he was very encouraging from the get-go.

His ideas as a jazz composer [and I believe he, Braxton and Threadgill are the only people to define the term properly in the modern age] really struck a chord with me. It's impossible to agree with him on everything: but you always have to listen to him.

We had occasional e-mail correspondence over the few years, one from him showing me the view out of his window on his Greek island in the middle of that bitter winter of 2009. He was a real supporter of my music—particularly the trio, and a real inspiration.

Here's Peter Hum's well-written obituary, and here is Graham's site, which all musicians should read and re-read.

comments (6)

George Burt

17th Sep 2011 | 4:50pm

Hello Corey Yes this is very sad news. I wouldn't be any kind of creative musician at all if it wasn't for Graham Collier and his music and writings.

I did a piece last year for the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra which was a kind of portrait of Harry Beckett, and I was going to send it to GC, but it's too late now...

Jazz happens in real time once! Seize the day!

All the best,



27th Sep 2011 | 1:47pm

Hope you don't take this as disrespectful to Graham Collier (changing the subject, I mean), but curious about your statement that—"he, Braxton and Threadgill are the only people to define the term properly in the modern age". What do you mean?

Corey Mwamba

28th Sep 2011 | 2:41am | replying to oliebrice

Hello Olie!

I certainly appreciate the diversion! Talking about these things makes me appreciate the music more.

I suppose I was [in a very short and simplistic way] making the distinction between someone writing a tune with various embellishments and someone devising whole new areas for an improviser to work within. Collier's focus on using the improviser as the material, and specifically the way he did this, is a deep compositional technique.

In my view, in terms of how I see modern composition in jazz—which I feel is more about creating wholly new structures while still being informed by the past—those guys are/were the ones that do that.

Now to be fair, this is a massive challenge! But I feel that they do do this, while others do not; but there are a fair few people over here who are confronting this as well [Hawkins, Allsopp, Hutchings—off the top of my head—I know there are more]. It's just a personal preference and wasn't meant as a slight to anyone.

We should all play soon—George included!


28th Sep 2011 | 9:23am

Thanks for your answer Corey.

I completely agree both about what modern jazz composition should be about, and the size of the challenge! I suppose it was the limiting of your list to 3 people that made me question you, as others spring to my mind—Roscoe Mitchell, Steve Lacy, Steve Lehman, Benoit Delbecq & Tyshawn Sorey for example...

I'm very unfamiliar with Graham Collier's own work—can you recommend a good place to start?

Would be great to play sometime, I loved your trio set when we were on the same bill in Manchester


28th Sep 2011 | 1:01pm

should have included Andrew Hill in my list...

Corey Mwamba

29th Sep 2011 | 4:14am | replying to oliebrice

See, as much as I like—and in the cases of Hill and Lacy, love—the music of the people you mentioned, they just don't quite occupy that same space for me in terms of organising sound through time. It's a really fine distinction in my head: hard to explain. Will think more and then respond when I've slept! I think it has to do with whether I can hear that a composition has been influenced through instrumental technique... but yes, I should sleep first...

I came to Graham's music quite late on, so I'm not an expert, but you could try The Third Colour which is great.

I suspect there will be re-issues—which would be a good thing!

And we certainly do need to play!

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