What are they saying?...
IMPULSIVE ILLUMINATIONS (Origin Records)
Downbeat, March 2017
Review by Jeff Potter
On his eighth disc for Origin, mallet man Tom Collier takes a departure with a go-for-broke set of free improvisations. Joining Collier is Richard Karpen, who lends a modern classical sensibility with his bold, cascading piano excursions. A third guest is featured on each track, resulting in diverse tableaus.
A recently retired University of Washington professor, Collier has gathered notable guests who are also faculty colleagues. The disc's interplay is complex, yet the satisfying focus is on undulating ensemble textures.
Guitarist Bill Frisell is featured on the ethereal title track, where he's right at home exploring beautiful long tones, conjuring spacey textures and even jabbing in a few cruncher chords. In contrast, drummer Ted Poor introduces aggressive rhythmic drive on "Odious Mode," sparking the disc's wildest collective moments, while clarinetist William O. Smith is pensive and searching on "Ligneous Oscillations."
On the eerie "Out Of The Cistern," featuring trombonist Stuart Dempster, deep reverb was added and programmed to decrease incrementally over the improvisation's 15 minutes. The effect is compelling. "Discontinuous Impunity" is a standout with trumpeter Cuong Vu shaping a shifting palette of squeezing, breathy tones that eventually explodes into the most "jazz"-leaning blowing of the set. His cat-and-mouse with Collier is a rush.
The extended abstract numbers are not easily accessible; that's just the nature of the beast. But Collier succeeds in finding beauty in pieces that, although "free," feature deeply listening musicians finding unity. ***
Jazziz Magazine, Spring, 2017
Review by Robert Weinberg
During his long career, vibraphonist Tom Collier has established himself as a masterful straight-ahead jazz artist. What many listeners might not realize is that Collier developed a love for free jazz as far back as the late 1960's. His passion for improvised music was nurtured at the University of Washington where he studied with William O. Smith and Stuart Dempster. Both of those former instructors lend their talents to tracks on Collier's latest recording, Impulsive Illuminations (Origin), a heady album of abstract jazz that dramatically departs from the vibist's more structured releases. Collier also recruited pianist Richard Karpen, who urged him to invite guitarist Bill Frisell, trumpeter Cuong Vu, and drummer Ted Poor, all of whom teach at the UW. The opening title track sets the mood for what follows. Karpen's frosty piano notes chime and sustain creating an icy surface made all the chillier by Frisell's reverberant guitar lines and Collier's crystalline vibes. Frisell utilizes subtle electronic loops and distortion, and Collier goes from spacious and ringing sonics to more pointillistic expressions. Most of all, this is an intriguing three-way conversation among expert improvisers.
Ancient Victories, March 2017
Review by Chris Lunn
Vibraphone, marimba, and percussionist Tom Collier expands his recording collection. Here he has just five tunes, 10- to 17- minute cuts, each featuring a valued musical companion. Richard Karpen joins him on piano on each of the cuts.
"Impulsive Illuminations" is a 15-minute collaboration with electric guitarist Bill Frisell. Piano opens quietly in the mid/low range, descends a bit then gets bold and avant. Vibes touch over the top along with suspended electric. This is modern yet delicate and developing with bolder piano releasing to extended guitar and light vibes underneath. They interplay with the piano the more stable and holding while the guitar wavers; some vibraphone layers are underneath. There are majestic vibe runs and then superb guitar electronic effects by Frisell; meantime, the piano builds. Later, the vibes become a shimmering challenging dominance, and the guitar provides slow single notes like a suspenseful movie. Toward the twelve-minute mark, there are guitar and light upper piano exchanges, almost watery, and the
sound builds to a wall. The piano, with strong modern expressive lines takes over. Guitar is quiet underneath. The piano moves into more classical lines and releases to a quiet end.
"Odious Mode" has Ted Poor on drums as guest artist. Vibes enter delicately with lots of space, almost meditative. No rush, just quiet touching. Collier builds the lines with some angular runs, holds, then a touch of jazz improvisation. He begins to dart with lines, building various rhythms, and the pulse is picked up by the drums slapping yet darting with the sound. Great match between the vibes and drums here. The tension and drive layer and build, the piano roars and rumbles on the low end. Percussion continues to snap and slap in a tour de force. They dart with abrupt bold loneliness. The drums move forward, not louder, just more up front, then the complexity of playing off each other mounts. Piano is almost a rumbling bass line. Drums come forward with quieter darting piano and vibes running over each other. This is very fun, effective, playful and, at times, almost childlike. Karpen booms forward with a low-end drive. The release is to quiet drums just touching, light high-end extension of the vibes, almost invisible piano.
Stuart Dempster, trombone and didgeridoo player, is featured on "Out of the Cistern" with marimba in a mid low solid strike held and didgeridoo touches in a low rumble. This is an outback, mysterious sound, wavering, almost feels to be coming to you from the ground. Very effective. They take this slowly, and eventually the almost elephant squawk signals from the trombone enter. The marimba is wavering underneath. Then a more ballad calling from the trombone starts, teetering on the avant, then the piano takes us right into that area. As the piano goes lower and more avant, the trombone builds in a ballad-form extension; piano is back with very hard striking low-end percussive pulls while the marimba stays below, quiet and wanders with the a quiet extended trombone. Piano takes a more ballad run, trombone almost squawks with a mute feel, the marimba is wavering, echoing in a bass warm line. Again, the piano comes in strong, releasing to light piano at the low end. Very quiet playing going on, almost in wait for the heavy sounds to pounce. More conventional marimba sounds rumble, and then it is almost a meditative talk toward the end as the music wanders in the distance. Very inventive work that all three composed.
"Ligneous Oscillations" features William O Smith on clarinet. The vibes open with Smith's clarinet talking easily, touches of piano helping build and then releasing to a darting, talking clarinet line. Smith becomes more ballad-like and playful. He weaves, stretches, almost squeaking, then goes into the low/midrange. Piano and vibes fill and weave, sometimes stretching forward on this slow, quiet, yet expressive theme. This is called oscillations, but comes across as conversational, darting, overlying exchanges. The darting is fun, playful, and interesting, accessible, not way outside, though the trio uses a lot of angular and modern approaches. The vibes barely make a sound as the piano is just slightly more forceful, and they work back and forth until Smith darts in, at first tentative, then with little bursts of lyrical color across most of the clarinet's range. The piano starts to build chorded, low-end plodding lines with space between the chords letting the chords extend. The piano develops a modern line with the vibes layering underneath. They merge, exchange positions, and carry you into a quiet space where Smith uses a vibrating breathing technique to almost squeak the clarinet quietly while the vibes waver in this quiet land.
"Discontinuous Impunity" brings the trumpet work of Cuong Vu. Vibes and piano play light lead, and then this very quiet horn in a narrow wavering sound enters. He is like a buzzing mosquito, building, with the vibes giving him support in this landscape of sound. Trumpet squawks and the vibes quiver. The piano drives on the low-end bold notes, and the trumpet is in the squeakiest narrow edge of sound-talk. Then he releases to a dancing jazz vibes line with a standard trumpet over the top; they are conversational, playing off each other. Then the vibes take off in rapid motion avant. Piano and vibes interchange. They hold, and the trumpet dives in rapid, quick, and quiet notes with dashes of vibes underneath. They dash, build, they release the conversation; again, playful, joyful fun. No blaring, just tight dashes of music. The piano crashes in big bold low-end chords and rapid note rumbling like boogie gone avant. It stops the trumpet, sticks out one note, and then the piano is all high-end talk, vibes barely there in lyrical sound, with just a note or two of trumpet. This builds with rapid trumpet dancing and the vibes doing a similar pattern in response. The vibes and piano build a boldness as the trumpet gets quieter and extends, then darts as things quiet down. Trumpet is just talking with touches of vibes, piano kind of like they are walking away, and then they build a high-end palate of sound. Things go quiet, barely audible, and out.
This is a wonderful project, is never hurried, always interesting and modern, and at times very avant and outside improvisational, but all vary accessible. Pure enjoyment for these ears.
KUCI Radio, February 13, 2017
Review by Hobart Taylor
Not for the inattentive listener, this deeply engrossing music composed by vibraphone/marimba player Tom Collier treads the ground of "pure", non-generic music. This music could be at home in a symphonic concert hall, a jazz night club, an electronic music seminar, or a Zen Center. Collier and his renowned colleagues, (Bill Frisell, guitar, Cuong Vu, trumpet, etc) stay gloriously true to their abstractions and improvisations.
All About Jazz, October 28, 2016
Review by Dan McClenaghan
Vibraphonist Tom Collier offers up something quite different from his previous Origin Records CDs, where he covered the jazz standards like John Coltrane's "Giant Steps", Miles Davis' "So What", and some seemingly unlikely pop hits: The Rolling Stones' "What a Shame" and Brian Wilson's "God Only Knows", alongside his own always engaging compositions. With Impulsive Illuminations, the thirty year University of Washington educator (now retired) explores the world of improvisation with pianist Richard Karpen, in the trio mode, with five different artists sitting in—one for each of the disc's extended tunes.
This is pure sound, the creation of atmospheres that can eliminate the listener's normal inclination to identify the inputs of the individual instruments. The piano/vibes pairing blends into a beautiful, luminous blur, and Bill Frisell's guitar—on the fifteen minute title tune/opener—glows in from another universe. Calling the sound "otherworldly" would be an understatement. It's the creation of a soundscape that slows time to a flow through a wavering liquid atmosphere via improvisational wizardry.
Drummer Ted Poor fills the third angle of the trio on "Odious Mode." The tune has more drive, with the snap of Poor's snare drum counterpointing the sustain of the vibes, combined with increase in tempo that injects turbulence to the fluid mood.
"Out of the Cistern" pulls things into even stranger territory. Taking as inspiration a Stuart Dempster recording (Dempster sits in on trombone and didjeridu on this tune) with Pauline Oliveros "that took place in an underground cistern with a 45 second reverberation time at Fort Warden State Park in Washington." Collier has recreated this reverb "by adding a sampled algorithm [that gradually] mathematically disappears so that there is zero reverberation by the end of the piece," according to the Collier-penned liner notes. Whether the process is understood or not, it makes for a ghostly fourteen minute tone poem of sound .
Clarinetist William O. "Bill" Smith joins Collier and Karpan on "Ligneous Oscillations," an abstract and eerie reverie; and trumpeter Cuong Vu contributes to this singular set with "Discontinuous Impunity," a gorgeous seventeen minute smear of avant-garde, in-the-moment composition that closes, perfectly, this singular, masterfully-crafted, in-the-moment set of sounds.
ACROSS THE BRIDGE (Origin Records)
Jazz Times, July, 2016
Review by Steve Greenlee
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.
All About Jazz, March 5, 2016
Review by Dan Bilawsky
Ruminations on the past, musical or otherwise, are often weighed down by the sediment of sentiment. But it certainly doesn't have to be that way. Looking back can provide an outlet for the imagination to take control, and vibraphonist Tom Collier seems well aware of that. On Across The Bridge, Collier revisits his youth, delivering nine original numbers that touch on a childhood spent on the opposite side of the West Seattle Bridge from where he currently resides. It's a personalized program that succeeds by avoiding mawkish tendencies and the quicksand of nostalgia. Instead of taking a tenderhearted path to the past, Collier reflects by rocking out with a strong crew of musicians who seem more than willing to have a good time in his world for a while.
The stories on Across The Bridge are brought to life by three different bands, with Collier and bassist Dan Dean serving as the constants between the groups. Four tracks bring guitarist Larry Coryell and drummer John Bishop into the picture, three numbers feature guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer Ted Poor, and two pieces are delivered by the trio of Collier, Poor, and Dean, with the bassist also covering guitar duties to essentially create another quartet. It's to Collier's credit that, despite the personnel change-ups across the album, there's tremendous consistency here.
"The Junction", a chromatically-laced composition with controlled aggression, kicks things off and sets things on a course that essentially remains steady for the entire album. Collier, Coryell, Dean, and Bishop dive headfirst into this heady rock-based music bringing lots of energy and attitude to the surface. Following that brief opener, the band-shifting begins. The Frisell group comes into the picture to deliver "Beach Drive", a somewhat slinky surf-side song that's far more lighthearted than what came before it. The Coryell clan comes back with "Gold 'N' Blues", the only swing based number on the record. The Dean-on-double-duty outfit joins the party with the slick funk of "The Admiral's Point Of View", and the Frisell band returns for a riff-fired rocker dubbed "47th 'N' Hudson". In each and every one of those pieces, Collier remains at the center of the action while also creating an atmosphere that encourages interplay and invites his fellow musicians to take chances and step into the spotlight.
The lone ballad on the album—"Genesee"—is the one place where dewy-eyed visions of Collier's past come to color the music. But there's nothing sappy about it, as it plays more like a daydream than a trip down memory lane. After that, the Collier that we've come to know from earlier in the album comes roaring back. "Harmonious Effusion On Olga Street", beginning with Collier's hypnotic sixteenth note riffs on marimba layered beneath Dean's simple and effective guitar, gets the adrenaline going again. Then Collier downshifts for "Fauntleroy Mist," a semi-haunting number perfectly suited to Frisell's sound, and the title track, a rollicking fusion-funk farewell in keeping with the overall vibe of the record. While we'll never know exactly what life was like for a young Tom Collier, it must've been one hell of a wild and colorful ride. At least that's what this music tells us.
Improvijazzation Nation, March 2016
Review by Dick Metcalf
Tom Collier's stellar vibraphone work leads the pack here, with electric guitar from Bill Frisell, electric/acoustic guitar from Larry Coryell, electric bass & electric guitar by Dan Dean, drums from John Bishop and (also) drums by Ted Poor… he got high marks from me in issue No. 159 and totally solidified my impression of his mastery with this new all-original release. No question I’ll be slidin’ up to Seattle to watch him play live (since he’s “just up the block” from me, so to speak). Tunes like "Beach Drive" give the listener an alternative to all the jazz “schlock” that’s out there on the market today. The total mellow that shines through on "Genesee" will put your ears right in the groove they need; the “pacing” is superb on this tune. It is the vibe lead on "Gold 'N' Blues" that gets my vote for personal favorite of the nine songs offered up, though… only 4:45, but this one will “stick in your head”, and you’ll be hitting the “replay” button on your playlist over & over again. I give Tom & his musical cohorts a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this great jazz album.
Audiophile Audition, March 2016
Review by Robbie Gerson
Tom Collier’s career as a vibraphonist is unlike any other. He has played with an eclectic, diverse group of artists including Frank Zappa, Dave Holland, The Beach Boys, Cal Tjader, Shelley Manne, Earl “Fatha” Hines, Barbra Streisand, Ry Cooder, Peggy Lee, Manheim Steamroller and The Mills Brothers. As leader, he has been recording since 1981 (including a near four-decade association with Dan Dean).
Collier has garnered an equally legitimate reputation as a classical player, performing with The Seattle Symphony, Bellevue Philharmonic, Denver Symphony, Northwest Chamber Orchestra, Everett Symphony, and the Olympia Symphony. He has played tympani with The Northwest Chamber Orchestra. As a classical musician, he released classical recordings like Mallet Fantastique (2010) and Tom Collier Plays Haydn, Mozart, Telemann And Others (2012). Collier is also very involved in music education. He has been the Director of Percussion Studies at University Of Washington, and has been awarded a Royal Research Grant from the UW to fund three albums.
On Collier’s latest release, Across The Bridge, he establishes the diversity and technical fluency that has become his trademark. Backed by a revolving all-star guitar crew (Larry Coryell, Bill Frisell and Dan Dean - who also handles bass duties - and alternating drummers (John Bishop and Ted Poor), Collier invigorates nine original compositions. The opening track (“The Junction”) is a hard-charging piece with jagged Coryell guitar lines and a gritty solo. Collier’s runs display controlled precision but sustain a colorful high-energy. Bishop also contributes a solo. Dean adopts a funky walking bass line to kick off the vampy “Beach Drive”. Bill Frisell evokes the ambiance of the title with echo-laden guitar riffs. There is a steady, pulsating beat. After Frisell’s artful solo, Collier slides in with a vibrant, sophisticated run before handing it off to Dean. The bassist shines on a nimble solo as Poor complements the band with his patented tempo stops and steady cadence.
The group demonstrates its versatility at every turn. “Gold 'N' Blues” is snappy and swings. Regardless of the lineup, the ensemble plays with chemistry and swagger. Each cut is different. On “The Admiral’s Point Of View”, there is a funky downbeat, and a soulful resonance. Collier can be atmospheric or dynamic in his compelling vibes mastery. There are some interesting chord modulations. The emphatic rhythm continues on “47th ’n Hudson” as Frisell and Collier establish counterpoints. Collier’s solos have flourishes and punctuated, rhythmic accents. Poor gets an extended solo.
Switching to ballad mode, “Genesee” is relaxed and melodic. Coryell’s acoustic guitar adds to the overall gentler texture. The understated vibe play is glowing. Collier recreates this languid dreamscape on “Fauntelroy Mist”. He is generous with his bandmates and their contributions to the unique aural imagery of each number. But the percussive influences emphasize the cohesion and passion of the music. “Harmonious Effusion On Olga Street” is up-tempo and percolating. Dean shines on guitar and bass. The title cut finale is pulsating and hypnotic. It has many syncopated rhythms and the addition of marimba is a nice touch. Bishop’s hard-driving drumming propels the jam, and the vibes are buoyantly vigorous.
Across The Bridge is simply…great music!
Downbeat, February 2016
Review by Fred Bouchard
Since 1997, Origin Records has stood steadfast as a bulwark for West Coast jazz and classical musicians, and mallet-meister Tom Colier splendidly fills both categories. As chair of percussion studies at Seattle's University of Washington, he's performed with major symphonies as well as Earl "Fatha" Hines, Frank Zappa, Peggy Lee and Cal Tjader. (He lately recorded mallet transcriptions of two-piano Mozart and Haydn pieces for Origin's classical division). Here Collier brightly reflects on a well-spent West Seattle childhood, joined by master guitarists Bill Frisell and Larry Coryell (themselves with Seattle roots), who alternate or double with the tart electric plectra of Dan Dean, Collier's musical partner for the past 40 years.
We hear no shortage of notes, ringing arpeggios or positive vibrations in this relaxed and funky set. Of special swagger is the stretch "Beach Drive," which features some stop-time turnoffs for drummer Ted Poor. "Gold 'N' Blues" lopes along with Coryell's bright guitar splashes, and Frisell lashes out on "47th 'N' Hudson." Throughout, Collier tap-dances lightly between woody solos and crisp, whispery comping. The final title track sprinkles Asian spice on a bluesy line, and we're home after a scenic ride. ***1/2
WRUV Radio, February 11, 2016
Review by Richard K. Haggerty
A fine musical celebration to the neighborhood and youthful memories of Tom Collier's town in West Seattle. Nine original compositions that not only showcase Tom's playing (vibraphone, marimba), but the interplay with his band. Guitarist Larry Coryell is on cuts 1,3,6,9, and Bill Frisell is featured on 2,5,8. Bassist Dan Dean lived across the street from Tom. A veteran unit that grooves.
Jazz On Record, December 2015
Review by Scott Yanow
While many of vibraphonist Tom Collier's originals on his new CD Across The Bridge have titles having to do with traveling and driving (including "The Junction", "Beach Drive", "47th 'N' Hudson", and even "Harmonious Effusion On Olga Street"), and one could imagine listening to this music while riding in a car, this is far from background music. Collier and his group (with Larry Coryell, Bill Frisell or Dan Dean on guitar, Dean on electric bass, and John Bishop or Ted Poor on drums) create stimulating music that rewards those who listen closely.
Tom Collier has been a major vibraphonist for decades. His resumé includes associations with many of the major artists in jazz, pop music, classical, and rock along with leading quite a few notable albums of his own. He has retained both his enthusiasm for creative music and a very open and distinctive style through the years. And while inspired by his predecessors including Gary Burton and Bobby Hutcherson, Collier sounds unlike anyone else.
The music on Across The Bridge is unclassifiable modern jazz that includes both funky rhythms and straight ahead playing. While Collier is often in the lead and there are memorable solos, he and his sidemen create a colorful group sound and their ensemble work is consistently exciting.
The first of Collier's nine originals is the infectious and funky "The Junction" which is notable for his speedy double-time runs, a quirky theme, and fine solos from Coryell and drummer Bishop. While "Beach Drive" has a catchy bass line that makes the piece danceable, the solos of Frisell, Collier, and Dean are far from predictable and contain their share of surprises. The medium tempo "Gold 'N' Blues" is a joyful piece that gives the group an opportunity to swing enthusiastically.
"The Admiral's Point Of View" and "47th 'N' Hudson" both feature close interplay by the musicians, along with attractive ensembles and concise solos. The warm ballad "Genesee" and the high energy "Harmonious Effusion On Olga Street" give this set variety and are equally rewarding. After the lazy ballad "Fauntleroy Mist", Across The Bridge concludes with the title cut, a passionate strut that features heated statements from Coryell, Dean, and the leader.
Across The Bridge is the latest accomplishment in Tom Collier's busy career and is easily recommended as a strong example of 21st century jazz.
KJHK Radio, November 25, 2015
Review by Matt Weiman
Tom Collier is a very impressive vibraphone player and holds nothing back on his album, Across The Bridge. Accompanied by Bill Frisell on guitar, Larry Coryell on guitar, Dan Dean on bass, John Bishop on drums, and Ted Poor on drums, Tom weaves his way magically through nine original compositions. It feels like elevator jazz at times with the vibraphone but it is so much more than that. Collier gets complex with melody lines and grooves.
"The Admiral's Point of View" is one of the more upbeat and funky tracks on the album. Dan Dean, Tom's longtime musical band mate of 50 years, really settles down in the pocket and takes an impressive solo during the middle of the song. Across The Bridge has a very cool feel because of the vibraphone and it is featured in almost every song, including "47th ‘N' Hudson." "Harmonious Effusion on Olga Street" is a very upbeat track and gives the feeling of a chase scene or an escape of some sort. This song feels like it belongs in a scene of a movie. Tom Collier creates a very harmonic melody with guitarist, Bill Frisell and gives justice to the name of the song.
The album finishes with the title track, "Across the Bridge." This song truly brings the whole album into perspective and is a great conclusion. It showcases a little bit of everything that made this album unique. Across The Bridge is a new, different listen from the average jazz album that, with breathtaking grooves, pushes the territory of where jazz can take you.
WTJU Radio, November 25, 2015
Review by Dave Rogers
Tom Collier plays vibes and marimba on these nine original compositions and he changes moods and styles with ease and command. He also keeps terrific company in a group of musicians who can bring their special talents to augment his shifts. Guitarists Larry Coryell and Bill Frisell add the wonderful coloring one would expect of them and bassist Dan Dean even takes a turn on guitar while maintaining his melodic and rhythmic bass. Ted Poor and John Bishop trade off duties on the drum kit. This is a beautiful collection and it does swing.
ALONE IN THE STUDIO (Origin Records)
Percussive Notes Magazine, March 2016
Review by Tom Morgan
Tom Collier has always been interested in recording music. This is obvious when one reads the liner notes to this excellent CD. As the name implies, Alone In The Studio is all Tom Collier playing vibes, marimba, piano, drums, and synthesized bass. He takes all of his past experience in the studio and creates performances of eleven tunes full of variety and musical interest.
The first two tunes, "Little Green Thing" and "Lines" are on vibes with no overdubbing. These performances alone establish Collier as an accomplished player. One can hear some Burton influence in his playing, and he is a technical wizard, especially on "Lines", which involves fast, scale-oriented playing. "Double Bars" involves vibes, marimba, piano, drums, and synthesizer bass. It is a funky shuffle original that prominently features the synth bass and marimba in an octave melodic groove that provides the foundation for the piece. As the tune develops, there are solos on piano and vibes, and he comps for himself on drums and keyboard instruments.
The standard "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most" is played on vibes as a traditional ballad with drums and bass accompaniment. This is followed by another standard, "Softly, As In The Morning Sunrise" with the opening eight bars of the melody played on the drums. Collier features himself on vibes and drums here. Although clearly a strong vibist, he is also a convincing drummer, and his solo is very musical and shows great command of the instrument.
A beautiful arrangement of "God Only Knows" and "Here, There, And Everywhere" opens with a solo vibe statement. Again we hear Collier's beautiful solo vibe approach that is so musical. About halfway through the performance, the bass and drums enter on the Beatles' tune. The drums and bass lock in perfectly with the vibes, and they accompany the improvised vibe solo as if three players were playing spontaneously. "Five Brothers", a Gerry Mulligan standard, features the drum set in this jazz-style performance with trading fours between the vibes and drums.
"Anyone Who Had A Heart" is a duet between vibes and marimba. Collier describes it as "a classic Bacharach tune featuring all of his compositional techniques, making it a challenge for improvisation". There are solos on vibes and marimba, each being accompanied by the other instrument. "Alone" is an original composition that is also a duet for vibes and marimba. These are both wonderful, spontaneous improvisatory offerings.
"Turning To Spring" features an extended vibes solo accompanied by Collier playing drums and synthesized bass. This may be the strongest tune on the recording, and the vibe solo is very relaxed and musically interesting. The feel is Latin or possibly ECM in style, and it flows naturally into a double-time samba feel during the solo section. Again we hear the Burton influence, but also Collier's own style shining through.
The CD ends with "Orbital Dance" for vibes, mallet MIDI controller, keyboard synthesizer, and drum synthesizer. It is described as "a leftover piece of experimental music that I recorded in 1988." Recorded in a basement studio on analog equipment, it is a funky tune that is quite different from the other tracks. Synthesized sounds are used here, including something resembling a steel drum sound, and others. It's a fun way to conclude this exploration into multi-track recording.
This CD will be very enjoyable for anyone interested in what is possible today with digital recording. It is also an excellent showcase for the percussion mastery of Tom Collier. He is truly a wonderful player who deserves more recognition.
Improvijazzation Nation, November 2015
Review by Dick Metcalf
I’ve always loved to listen to solo performers, and when they play more than one instrument (in this case, Tom Collier plays vibraphone, marimba, piano, drums, bass & synth), then you’ll find this to be sonic heaven; that’s especially true on tunes like "Double Bars“, one of the absolute best high-energy tracks I’ve listened to in 2015. The swirling synth sounds you hear on "Orbital Dance“, the closer, are phenomenal, and will hold you absolutely spellbound. In the end-run, though, it was the laid-back & bluesy "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most” that got my vote for personal favorite of the eleven tunes offered up for your aural pleasure. I’m highly impressed, and have no doubt you will be too; Tom gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this great release.
Jazziz On Disc, Fall 2015
Review by Robert Weinberg
Vibraphonist Tom Collier has nurtured twin passions for mallet instruments and the recording process since childhhod. His dad, a professional trumpet player, was also a 78rpm recording hobbyist, and he even recorded his four-year-old son playing xylophone in 1952. The equipment and Collier's playing grew more sophisticated over the years, and he recalls trying to replicate the then-experimental overdubbing techniques employed by the Beatles and by vibraphonist Gary Burton while attending the University of Washington. Collier's recording expertise has stood him in good stead during a long career as a session player, working with the likes of Ry Cooder, Tom Scott, Shelly Manne, and Don Grusin, and on his own recordings as well.
His latest album for the Origin label, Alone In The Studio, is exactly that. Collier played all of the instruments, not just his signature vibes and marimba, but also drums, piano, and synth bass. But he truly goes it alone on a bravura solo vibes read of "Lines", a Larry Coryell composition recorded in 1967 by the guitarist with Burton on vibes. Collier's warm intonation recall's Burton's and his sparkling virtuosity shines as he joyfully traverses the bars of his instrument with dazzling speed and acuity.
Jazziz Magazine, Fall 2015
Review by Mark Holston
As a kid growing up in the Seattle area, Tom Collier became a fan of overdubbing when his musician father acquired a reel-to-reel tape deck with multi-tracking capabilities. After several decades as a gigging musician and a long stint as a percussion professor at the University of Washington, his multi-instrumental talents are captured on the aptly titled Alone In The Studio (Origin). "One-man-band" productions can sound stiff, but not Collier's. An engaging soloist on both vibes and marimba, he also displays enviable acumen as a pianist and drummer. While his use of synthesizer bass detracts from the overall acoustic feel of several performances, he hits all the right notes on "Alone", an original work featuring a vibes and marimba "duet".
All About Jazz, June 25, 2015
Review by C. Michael Bailey
Percussionist Tom Collier has the solo touch. His previous recording, Tom Collier: Plays Haydn, Mozart, Telemann and Others (Origin, 2012) had the vibraphonist and educator making his way through a baroque and classical recitals to great effect. Presently, Collier strolls through some originals and standards and not-so-standard standards making up this most inventive and clever collection of songs.
Alone in the Studio presents Collier in the most intimate of settings, as a solo artist. He has fun with the Beach Boy's "God Only Knows" coupled with the Beatles "Here, There, and Everywhere." While this medley is the soul of this disc, the tried and true "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most" and "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise" shimmer with Collier's originality and intelligence. Collier's "Double Bars" is his most complex piece, with Collier playing vibraphone, marimba, piano and drums...here Collier's joy is infections.
The performance that sums up the disc is the opener, Dave Lewis' "Little Green Thing." The piece is full of mirth and the blues. Collier's tone is full and ringing, a sonic smile that recalls Milt Jackson without imitating him. Alone in the Studio is a recording to return to often. Make some more Dr. Collier.
Earshot Jazz, June 2015
Review by Bryan Lineberry
The master vibraphone player Tom Collier extends his virtuosity into several other musical instruments for Alone In The Studio. After having performed and/or recorded with an unbelievable list of legends (for starters Natalie Cole, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dave Holland, and Frank Zappa), he tries his hand at being his own band on several tracks via the magic of the overdubbing process, though many of the tunes are just Collier doing amazing things on just the vibraphone. His weapons of choice are vibes, marimba, piano, drums, and keyboards.
The album begins with a solo performance of "Little Green Thing", a tune that was originally written and performed by Seattle-based organist Dave Lewis. We get a small introduction to the extent of Collier's powers. He uses the established melodic elements of the song as a springboard into his vast vocabulary.
Sometimes, covering a very famous song can just set one up for failure to meet firm musical expectations, or, in the case of "God Only Knows/Here, There, and Everywhere" it can set one up for totally re-imagining all the musical possibilities there are in the world. For the Beach Boys classic "God Only Knows", Collier does an incredible job of letting the music take deep breaths through his vibes before applying his musical sensibilities into Lennon/McCartney's "Here, There, And Everywhere" with his "trio".
Jazz On Record, Spring 2015
Review by Scott Yanow
In his career, Tom Collier has been well-known as a distinctive vibraphonist, an influential educator, and a player who interacts closely with other musicians. Alone In The Studio is something a bit different for Collier is the only musician on the project. While he has worked with overdubbing since 1966 and recorded two solo classical CD's in recent times, Alone In The Studio stands out in his discography.
Tom Collier is featured on vibes, marimba, drums, bass synthesizer, and piano. Although he obviously cannot duplicate most of these performances in concert, at no time throughout this set does it sound as if the music is overdubbed or gimmicky. While Collier's main ax is the vibes, his spots on his other instruments reveal that he is talented on all of them. His arrangements smoothly blend together all of his voices into an appealing ensemble sound.
Alone In The Studio actually begins with two unaccompanied vibraphone solos. "Little Green Thing" features an attractive and bluesy theme while Larry Coryell's "Lines" (recorded back in the guitarist's days with Gary Burton's group) features some brilliant double-time runs from the vibraphonist.
Collier's original "Double Bars" has several sections, evolving into a swinging number that has him playing all five instruments; his drum breaks are pretty impressive. His version of "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most" is a pretty interpretation with some subtle creativity by his vibes over the synthesized bass and drums. Collier plays the melody of "Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise" on drums, leads the rhythm section on vibes, and takes a fine drum solo. He plays a logical medley of Brian Wilson's "God Only Knows" and the Beatles' "Here, There And Everywhere" that is lengthy, melodic and thoughtful.
Gerry Mulligan's "Five Brothers", performed by vibes, bass, and drums, is swinging and boppish, climaxed by a tradeoff of vibes and drums. Collier's vibes and marimba blend very well on Burt Bacharach's somber and tender "Anyone Who Had A Heart". His vibes are well showcased on "Turning To Spring" while "Alone" is a lyrical and explorative vibes-marimba duet. The final selection, "Orbital Dance", is a bonus cut recorded in 1988, a fun number with vibes, synthesizer, drum synthesizer, and a mallet MIDI controller that is catchy.
Alone In The Studio is an enjoyable tour-de-force for Tom Collier.
Audiophile Audition, April 13, 2015
Review by John Sunier
Percussionist Tom Collier traces his roots to Seattle and sixties musical culture. He considers Gary Burton (especially his 1966 album, Time Machine ) a vital influence in his development. Additionally, pop music from that era (The Beatles, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass) provided insight into aspects of the recording process. His earliest gigs were on marimba. He eventually worked with Ry Cooder, Ernie Watts, Shelly Manne and Alex Acuna. Over the subsequent decades he recorded original music and accepted a position as Director Of Percussion at The University Of Washington. At the same time, he became adept at producing, mixing and mastering recordings. In late 2014 he went into the studio to record a solo album.
Alone In The Studio is a fearless combination of original material and a variety of standards from jazz, Broadway and pop. The opening track is a solo vibraphone (without overdubbing) version of Seattle-based Dave Lewis’ “Little Green Thing”. Beginning with delicate improvisational flourish, Collier exhibits the range and tonality of his instrument. His technique is fluid, and resonates as he pushes the tempo. He pays homage to Burton on the Larry Coryell composition “Lines” in similar fashion with a rollicking “no overdubs” approach. The musical complexity is compelling. Switching to finger-snapping cool, “Double Bars” has an expanded instrumentation. Piano, marimba, drums and synthesizer bass create a small combo feel. The piano solo at 1:49 is rhythmic and leads into a sprightly vibes solo.
The melodic nuances on “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most” make the tender ballad graceful. Collier’s mellow reverberation on the vibes has a graceful, ruminative sway. He maintains the song structure, but with freewheeling agility. Gerry Mulligan’s “Five Brothers” is notable for an extended drum solo. Collier recalls his favorite pop albums on a medley. He offers a faithful rendition of Brian Wilson’s epic “God Only Knows” (from Pet Sounds), with deft, atmospheric vibe runs that eloquently utilize the uncanny chord structure.
With a syncopated bass line, he captures the dulcet innocence of a Paul McCartney classic (from Revolver) in jazzy, subtle swing. (Note: McCartney has acknowledged the influence of “God Only Knows” on this song.). Collier’s vibes simply glow on this. “Softly, As The Morning Sunrise” (from the 1928 Sigmund Romberg/Oscar Hammerstein II operetta The New Moon) has been a jazz staple for years (Milt Jackson, Freddie Hubbard, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins recorded versions of this tune), and Collier embraces it with prominent swing aesthetics. Collier has constructed a one-man jazz trio (vibes, drums, synthesizer bass) and contributes another drum solo. He always manages to weave the melody line into the jamming.
Another highlight of Alone In The Studio is a vibes/marimba arrangement of “Anyone Who Had a Heart”. This is one of Burt Bacharach’s most intriguing songs, full of interesting chords and shifts. The sonic dynamics of vibes and marimba fits perfectly. Collier’s meditative and nimble explorations on marimba are elegant. This instrumental structure is repeated on the title cut. This waltz-like original showcases Collier’s instrumental prowess. On “Turning To Spring” (the fourth recorded version of this number), he excels with an elongated vibes solo in a Latin-infused context. The finale (“Orbital Dance”) has a funk/jazz fusion motif that is different from the rest of the album.
Alone In The Studio is compelling, listenable music. The vibes and marimba sound rich and full. There are incisive liner notes explaining the session.
SLEEK BUICK (Origin Records)
Jazz Weekly, November 13, 2014
Review by George W. Harris
Here’s a fun loving disc from the Pacific Northwest. From Seattle, vibist Tom Collier and bassist Dan Dean bring together a varied and variegated collection of winsome and pulsating sounds that mix and match diverse instruments as dobro, ukulele, mandolin and fiddle as well as the normal collection of guitars, drums and reeds.
Intricate yet swinging material such as the title track have Andy Leftwich on fiddle and mandolin veering in and out some hairpin turns,while the reggae groove on “California Avenue” offers a Tiki Room treasure of marimba pangs. R&B backbeats give Ernie Watts some backbone for his tenor to wail on “ WMB’s” and the blues goes bopping on “ Mallet Tech.” Don Grusin’s restless piano bounces around Collier’s vibes on the charming and uptempo “Lettercollum/Paris” and the gospel train comes to town as “ Walking in My Old Shoes” has Gruisin and Watts deliver plaintive testimonies. These guys will charm your socks off.
Jazziz Magazine, Fall 2014
Review by Robert Weinberg
Last year Collier and Dean reintroduced themselves to many jazz listeners with the re-release of their 1981 LP Whistling Midgets. High-level musicianship, A-list sidemen, and a fairly eclectic palate remain hallmarks of the band, which they prove again on their latest CD, Sleek Buick (Origin). Vibraphonist Tom Collier and bassist Dan Dean lead an ensemble including many of the same musicians from the Midgets session. Re-upping for a ride on the Buick are pianist Don Grusin, saxophonists Ernie Watts and Gary Herbig, and drummer Alex Acuña who alternates tracks with Ted Poor.
The set comprises original tunes by both leaders (and two by Grusin), and often incorporates some oddball musical mash-ups thanks to the various instruments and sensibilities employed. For example, on "California Avenue" Collier's shimmering vibes and sparkling marimba are offset by Herbig's R&B-toned baritone sax as well as his straight-ahead jazz-minded alto solo. For his part, Dean dances tonefully along and even slips into a Caribbean groove before Poor enters with an exciting solo statement of his own. Dean is also credited with playing the ukulele on the track, although with so much going on, you might miss it.
Jazz On Record, Fall 2014
Review by Scott Yanow
Veteran vibraphonist Tom Collier has an endless amount of credits ranging from Earl Hines to Frank Zappa, Buddy DeFranco to Barbra Streisand. Through it all, he has retained his enthusiasm and creativity, recording a series of consistently rewarding solo projects. Sleek Buick is the third album that he has co-led with his childhood friend Dan Dean. Dean, who has also uplifted hundreds of sessions in his career, mostly plays bass but is also heard here on keyboards, ukulele, classical guitar, and percussion at various times.
Sleek Buick covers a wide range of modern and often groove-oriented jazz. Five of the songs were composed by Collier, Dean contributed three originals and Don Grusin, who plays piano on six of the selections, brought in the other two numbers. The personnel and instrumentation vary throughout the set with altoist Gary Herbig, guitarist John Morton, violinist Andy Leftwich, and drummers Alex Acuña and Ted Poor making strong impressions.
The music on Sleek Buick is often rhythmically catchy but is far from simplistic. The opening title cut, which hints in spots at both bluegrass and fusion (one could imagine David Grisman recording this), is joyful and has some fine fiddle playing from Leftwich. The lightly funky "California Avenue" features Herbig's high-powered alto and excellent solos from both Collier and Dean. "WMB's" has the largest group of the set, an octet, playing soulful blues. Dean's double-timing bass really pushes the band and there are many fine solos including tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts (who is typically explosive), and trumpeter Allen Vizzutti who contributes a boppish statement.
"Touching" is a tasteful, sophisticated and quietly emotional ballad with thoughtful playing by Collier, Grusin, and Dean. The moody ensemble piece, "Lettercollum/Paris", has a soulful groove while "A Corona Haze" is episodic and particularly unpredictable. The remaining selections include an infectious calypso (Playas de Rosarito"), a complex piece with close interplay reminiscent of Gary Burton and Chick Corea ("Mallet Tech"), the reggae-flavored "Ethiopian", and the nostalgic melody of "Walking In My Old Shoes".
Tom Collier's vibes playing is highly individual during his solos but he also blends well with the other musicians. The versatile Dan Dean adds a great deal to the music with his bass playing. Together, Collier and Dean make an ideal team with Sleek Buick being an easily recommended set of their brand of creative jazz.
University of Washington School of Music Whole Notes, Fall 2014
Review by Joanne DePue
Percussion Studies Chair Tom Collier and longtime musical partner Dan Dean have been playing music together since they were teens back in the '60's. Here, they gather with long-time friends, pianist Don Grusin, saxophonist Ernie Watts, and drummer Alex Acuña, to revisit the energy and spirit of the 1980 LP, Whistling Midgets. With tight, fleet lines and rollicking grooves, the duo's time-earned telepathic musical connection makes Sleek Buick a festive treat. Also featured are drummer Ted Poor, trumpeter Allen Vizzutti, and saxophinst Gary Herbig.
Wondering Sound, August 20, 2014
Review by Dave Sumner
Real nice contemporary fusion recording, led out by vibraphonist Tom Collier, and bassist Dan Dean, also including some powerhouse names from the contemporary scene like Ernie Watts, Ted Poor, Alex Acuna and Don Grusin. Album starts out with a bluegrass ditty, with mandolinist Andy Leftwich spurring them on, then moves into more common territory. Songs have a nice motion to them, "Lettercollum/Paris" in particular, which is all kinds of likable. Typically not my cup of tea, per se, but for those who prefer the contemporary fusion sound, I'd definitely check this one out. I certainly enjoyed listening to it, so I'd imagine it would hold great appeal to those whose ears seek this sound out.
WTJU Radio, August 4, 2014
Review by Dave Rogers
Tom Collier and Dan Dean bring a melodic and highly appealing set of ten originals featuring Collier primarily on vibes and Dean on bass and a variety of other instruments. Don Grusin adds piano and composed two of the titles. The sound varies from joyfully infectious to dreamy.
WICR Radio, August 3, 2014
Review by radio staff
Seattle-based vibist Tom Collier and bassist Dan Dean have been playing music together since they were teenagers back in the '60's. Here they gather pianist Don Grusin, saxophonst Ernie Watts, and drummer Alex Acuña, to revisit the energy and spirit of their 1980 release Whistling Midgets. Also featured on the album are drummer Ted Poor, trumpeter Allen Vizzutti, and saxophonist Gary Herbig. Songs you'll hear on WICR include "Sleek Buick", "California Avenue", "A Corona Haze", and also "Mallet Tech".
Midwest Record, August 1, 2014
Review by Chris Spector
Wouldn't you like to be able to say Don Grusin, Alex Acuna and Ernie Watts were your old pals? Wouldn't you like to have Allen Vizzutti and Gary Herbig in your Rolodex? This vibe/bass duo who've been at it for 40 years, since they were teens, can and does. Hip, creative but still accessible, everybody here is playing like they are having a good time and by all bets, it seems like the spirit should be infectious. The vibe goes back to the 80s and it feels a lot like a Windham Hill meets Flying Fish date that would have turned out if Mike Marshall met up with Jay Unger. This is what happens when you flash some commercial jazz that doesn't have a yucky side. Well done.
Plays Haydn, Mozart, Telemann, and Others (Origin Classical Records)
Cadence Magazine, Oct, Nov, Dec, 2012
Review by Bernie Koenig
I absolutely love this record. First, I am a mallet player who is also, like Tom Collier, classically trained but who also plays jazz and loves to play classical pieces on the vibes. Second, I am very familiar with all of the music on this record with the exception of the Krommer piece. Third, Collier plays these pieces beautifully. When I first received this CD, I was surprised since it was not improvised music. But Collier is known as a jazz player. After looking it over I decided I would either totally hate it or totally love it.
Playing transcriptions of classical pieces is nothing new. It actually was a common practice in the baroque era. And in our time, Dame Evelyn Glennie has also transcribed baroque pieces for vibes. But Collier does something different by playing both parts of a duet, one part on vibes, and the other on marimba, so we get a clear contrast and we hear two distinct instruments.
The two highlights of the record for me are the two Mozart pieces. The duet for two violins is better known as a piano piece, and I have always felt that most classical pianists play the last movement - the "Turkish March" - too slowly. Collier plays it right. And using a mallet synthsizer to create the orchestral sound of "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" is great.
This record is not for everyone. But if you like the idea of classical transcriptions, if you like any of the music on this record, and if you like excellent mallet playing, then you will like this record.
Music and Vision CD Spotlight, September 3, 2012
Review by Howard Smith
As a small kid, Tom was taken by his dad to hear the great vibraphone player Lionel Hampton. Collier never looked back. He gave his first publicperformance at the age of five in 1954 and marked the fiftieth anniversaryof that performance with a concert at Brechimin Auditorium in Seattle in April 2004.
During five-and-a-half decades in the business, Collier has performed in concert and on recordings with a showtime who's who -- Ry Cooder, Victor Feldman, Shelly Manne, Laurindo Almeida, Buddy DeFranco, Peggy Lee, Herb Ellis, Bill Mays, Sammy Davis Jr, Johnny Mathis, Olivia Newton-John, The Mills Brothers, Della Reese and so forth.
But Collier crossed across a divide that Lionel Hampton (1908-2002), Milt Jackson (1923-1999), Cal Tjader (1925-1982), Gary Burton (born 1943), Khan Jamal (born 1946), Matthais Lupri (born 1964) have seldom bridged.
In the classical arena, Collier has appeared as an electrifying guest soloist with the Seattle Symphony, The Bellevue Philharmonic, The Northwest Chamber Orchestra, The Everett Symphony, and The Olympia Symphony. He was timpanist in the Los Angeles Repertoire Orchestra in 1976, vibraphonist in L.A. Contempo Four, as well as filling spots with the Federal Way Chorale (founded 1993).
Collier has been Director of Percussion Studies at the University of Washington since 1980. In 2011 he was appointed Chair of Jazz Studies at the school. He has presented over three hundred jazz concerts in public schools around Washington State for the Arts In Education Program of the state Arts Commission. In 1980 he was presented with an 'Outstanding Service To Jazz Education' award by the National Association of Jazz Educators. In 2011 the Adelaide D. Currie Cole Endowed Professorship in the University of Washington School of Music was awarded to Collier for the academic years 2011-2014.
For this recording, Tom Collier has arranged works mostly composed for two violins and has adapted them for marimba and vibraphone. His first encounter with music for marimba occurred in the late 1950's when he learned from transcriptions of great violin pieces, some of the only published music available for mallet instruments at the time.
This recording marks Collier's return to his earliest musical roots as a student. If you're game to hear classics from a new, fascinating standpoint, here's your chance. I cannot recommend it too highly.
All About Jazz, May 2012
Review by C. Michael Bailey
Tom Collier has served as Director of Percussion Studies at the University of Washington since 1980. In 2011, he was appointed Chair of Jazz Studies at the school, and was awarded the Adelaide D. Currie Cole Endowed Professorship in the School of Music for the academic years 2011-2014. He is, indeed, having a good year. His last recording, Mallet Fantasique (Origin Classical, 2010), received much praise in print. On Plays Haydn, Mozart, Telemann and Others, Collier interprets the 18th Century classical repertoire on the vibes to interesting and great effect.
As it turns out, there is nothing new about playing classical music on the vibes. Classical pieces have long been used as practice items for the vibraphonist, offering a dual melodic and technical challenge. Collier selects a cross-section of the classical violin repertoire in Spohr, Haydn, Mozart, and Krommer. Interestingly, these composers were also the period's foremost writers for the clarinet. Played on vibraphone and marimba, the pieces' earlier Baroque influences can best be heard. The single Baroque composer included here is George Philipp Telemann, whose "Duet in G Major for Violin and Flute" provides Collier, perhaps, with his most challenging and sumptuous material. The melodies will be familiar.
Collier closes with the most familiar in Mozart's Allegro From "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik," which he plays with grace and aplomb. He follows this with Niccolo Paganini's "Moto Perpetuo In C Major, Opus 11" as realized by violinist Fritz Kreisler. This is fun music in any case, and having it played on the vibes by such a talent as Collier is just gravy.
MALLET FANTASTIQUE (Origin Classical Records)
I-Tunes Review, June 2011
Review by W.T. Expositor
Whoever Tom Collier is, more people should know about him. His recent album, Mallet Fantastique is in a word, fantastic. Actually, Collier is director of percussion at the University of Washington and has been playing marimba and vibraphone since he was a kid more than fifty years ago. Although primarily into jazz during most of his professional career, he was trained as a Rockefeller Grantee in college in contemporary classical music. According to the album notes, he played pieces by significant composers including Terry Riley, Luciano Berio, George Rochberg, Ingolf Dahl, and many others during his undergraduate years in the late 1960's. Mallet Fantastique is a welcome return to that genre for Collier. However, this album features his own compositions and every one displays his creative talents as a virtuoso performer and a mature composer. The first track, "Marimba Fantastique", is an extended solo piece combining written passages with improvised variations. The composed and improvised sections weave seamlessly in and out of each other so effectively that even the keenest ear would have trouble distinguishing between written and impromptu. The slow, middle section is hauntingly beautiful bringing out the wonderful organ-like tones of the rosewood marimba bars. "Three Scenes for Vibraphone and Marimba" blur the line between contemporary classical music and jazz. Obvious areas of improvisation are evident and Collier, who played both instruments through the "magic" of overdubbing, let's loose with some wonderful solos. The metal bars of the vibes and the wooden marimba bars mesh beautifully. Why isn't this combination more popular? As for the rest of the album, "Cross Bars" is the most avant-garde piece playing with math and rhythm, "Duettino Improvisando" is lightweight classical/jazz fusion and "Vibescape" is a showcase for the textural capabilities of the vibraphone. The second movement of that piece has Collier bowing the vibraphone bars with two cello bows. Absolutely beautiful. The album ends with a traditional marimba solo from the early 20th century entitled "Radio Galop". Collier transcribed the piece off of an Edison disc. If you want to hear pure technique at its musical finest, this is the piece for you. Get this album! You will not be disappointed.
Urban Flux, April 2, 2010
Review by Rob Young
Drawing from his own library of compositional works, mallet percussionist Tom Collier presents a deep and varied collection of works for marimba and vibraphone. He seamlessly weaves the timbres of the instruments on “Three Scenes for Vibraphone and Marimba,” and “Duettino Improvisando for Vibraphone and Marimba,” while “Marimba Fantastique” serves to cement both his compositional and improvisational prowess, intertwined with a deep musicality. Collier has maintained a strong professional presence for decades in Los Angeles and Seattle; from international tours, to major motion pictures, to holding the Director of Percussion Studies at the University of Washington.
All About Jazz, March 20, 2010
Review by C. Michael Bailey
Mallet percussionist Tom Collier finally educates listeners on the difference between the vibraphone and marimba: it is the sound. These mallet-driven instruments make a great alternative to the piano, both in solo and ensemble settings. They are rich instruments, the vibraphone with its resonant presence and the marimba with its organic woodiness. Mallet Fantastique houses six extended compositions for mallets that Collier recorded between 2004-2009. This is the new chamber music, not too flashy, but certainly well considered.
The disc opens with Collier's 2007 composition "Marimba Fantastique" in which he presents the full tonal range of the marimba, from its near-vibrophonic reverb to its flattest wooden base. "Three Scenes for Vibraphone and Marimba" from 2005, pit the instruments side-by-side. The tones are different enough to keep things both creative and interesting. Collier's harmonic and melodic sense is well developed and displayed on this suite and on his 2009 "Vibescape for Solo Vibraphone". This latter composition possesses a dreamy quality, like honey and Quaaludes. It is as light and rich as whipped cream. The closing "Radio Galop" is a real treat that highlights Collier's grand technical ability. Mallet Fantastique is a very listenable recording that is far enough of the beaten path of music to be both novel and essential.
All Music Guide, March 2005
Review by David Szatmary
Percussionist Tom Collier offers a varied program of jazz-based, classic contemporary music on his third offering from the Seattle-based Origin music. Using vibraphone and marimba, he engages the listener in these solo performances, which range from the melodic to more complex experiments. He starts with an extended "Marimba Fantastique", which features some improvisation on top of written contemporary sounds reminiscent of Terry Riley and Steve Reich. He continues with three tone poems about places he has lived. The standout, "Nordic Hills", grafts tasty improvisation over a beautifully flowing melody. "Cross Bars" uses the challenging technique of Conlon Nancarrow, as Collier starts with rapid fire marimba lines that get slower overlayed on a dirge-like vibraharp that becomes increasingly more frantic. He moves dramatically to an almost popish, soothing vibe/marimba duet before ending the program with three abstract, jagged soundscapes. As an encore, Collier adds a brief interpretation of a 1920's tune he remembered from an Edison cylinder. Challenging, innovative and varied, this new CD from Collier will be welcomed by anyone interested in the intersection between classic contemporary and jazz-based music.