"Collier ... is so well-equipped academically that his sleight-of-hand solos already are a fascinating study." -Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times-
"Collier’s mellow reverberation on the vibes has a graceful, ruminative sway. He maintains the song structure, but with freewheeling agility." - Scott Yanow, Jazz Historian and Journalist-
"Tom Collier, a great vibes player...." -Emil Richards autobiography, "Wonderful World Of Percussion"-
"Tom Collier ... one of the best jazz vibraphonists on the planet." -Scott Mercado interview, Modern Drummer Magazine-
"Collier turns phrases and builds lines that set a new musical standard for the vibraphone." -F. Michael Combs, Percussive Notes/Percussive Arts Society-
"(Collier) makes vibes and marimbas the expressive and emotional equal of piano keyboards." -Robert Carlberg, Keyboard Magazine-
"Speaking of technical brilliance, the show was opened by an impressive set by vibraphonist Tom Collier and electric bassist Dan Dean." -Patrick MacDonald, Seattle Times-
A sampling of the many accolades accorded to vibraphonist/marimbist and Professor Emeritus Tom Collier during his 65+ years in music is a reflection of his international reputation in jazz, classical and pop circles. Collier made his first public music performance at the age of 5 in 1954 and celebrated the 60th anniversary of that performance with a 2014 concert at Meany Hall Studio Theater on the University of Washington campus. After directing the Percussion Program at the UW’s School of Music for 36 years, Collier retired from that position two years later in 2016.
In the “real world” of music, Collier has released several recordings as leader or co-leader beginning with1981's Whistling Midgets on Inner City Records with electric bassist Dan Dean, saxophonists Ernie Watts and Gary Herbig, pianist Don Grusin and Weather Report drummer Alex Acuña. Other albums include Illusion (1988, T.C. Records), Pacific Aire (1990, Nebula Records) and Mallet Jazz (2004, Origin Records). Collier and Dean's 2005 album, Duets on Origin Records, was nominated for "Album of the Year" by Earshot Magazine. An album of original compositions for vibraphone and marimba, Mallet Fantastique, was released in March, 2010 on the Origin Classical label. Another album for Origin Classical was released in 2012, Tom Collier Plays Haydn, Mozart, Telemann and Others, featuring Collier playing compositions originally composed for two violins re-arranged for vibraphone and marimba.
Collier And Dean released their third album, Sleek Buick, in July, 2014 on Origin Records featuring a reunion of 1981’s Whistling Midgets musicians as well as drummer Ted Poor, trumpet virtuoso Allen Vizzutti, and ace studio guitarist John Morton. Also in 2014, Tom was awarded a Royalty Research Grant by the University of Washington to produce three new recordings in three different settings. The first project, a solo album entitled Alone In The Studio, was released on Origin Records in March 2015. A second recording, Across The Bridge, was released by Origin in November, 2015 and featured nine original compositions for jazz quartet. World-renowned guitarists Bill Frisell and "godfather of fusion" Larry Coryell joined Collier on this recording along with drummers Ted Poor and John Bishop, as well as electric bassist/guitarist Dan Dean who also produced the album. The third project, an experimental free improvisation trio album entitled Impulsive Illuminations,was released on Origin in November 2016. The above four albums were accepted and placed on their respective year’s GRAMMY voting ballots under the “Best Instrumental Jazz Album” and “Best Improvised Jazz Solo” categories.
In addition to his recording activities, Tom has appeared in concert and on recordings with many important jazz and popular artists including Ry Cooder, Earl "Fatha" Hines, Roger Kellaway, Frank Zappa, Patti Allen, Eddie Daniels, Victor Feldman, Howard Roberts, Dave Holland, Cal Tjader, Shelly Manne, Laurindo Almeida, Buddy DeFranco, Diane Schurr, Peggy Lee, Natalie Cole, Morganna King, Herb Ellis, Bill Mays, Bobby Shew, Ernestine Anderson, Mannheim Steamroller, Sammy Davis, Jr., Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Olivia Newton-John, The Beach Boys, The Mills Brothers, Della Reese and many more.
In the classical arena, Collier has appeared as guest soloist with the Seattle Symphony, The Denver Symphony, The Bellevue Philharmonic, The Northwest Chamber Orchestra, The Everett Symphony, The Olympia Symphony, and Seattle’s Thalia Symphony Orchestra. He was timpanist in the Los Angeles Repertoire Orchestra in 1976, vibraphonist in L.A. Contempo Four, 1975-77 (a modern music ensemble), and timpanist with the Northwest Chamber Orchestra, 1972-73. In 2017, Tom was invited to join Temperamental, a Seattle based group of internationally-known musicians specializing in late Renaissance and early Baroque music, performing concerts fusing 17th century music and modern jazz improvisation.
Collier has also recorded several educational albums for Music Minus One and Studio 4 Music and has presented over 300 jazz concerts in public schools around Washington State for the Arts In Education Program of the state Arts Commission. In 1980, Collier was presented with an "Outstanding Service To Jazz Education" award by the National Association of Jazz Educators, and over the past thirty years, he has won 23 ASCAP Popular Panel Awards for his various jazz and percussion compositions.
During the past few years, Tom has been playing vibes with The Silver-Tongued Devils, an R&B band fronted by former Wailers’ guitarist John Hanford and featuring bassist/vocalist Tim Scott (The Reputations, Red House), veteran studio saxophonist Jon Goforth, and drummers Chris Leighton and/or Ben Smith (formerly of Heart). Recently, Collier has teamed up with vocalist Valerie Rosa performing an eclectic mix of songs from various genres including the “Great American Songbook”, rhythm and blues, and pop standards. The unusual pairing of voice and vibraphone is unique in sound yet musically exciting with Tom effectively weaving lines and laying down harmonies in support of Valerie’s inimitable singing style.