(Cuneiform)

A seven-part suite commissioned by the Arts Council of Great Britain for the 1983 Bracknell Jazz Festival, “Hoarded dreams” was played by a stellar cast of nineteen pretty illustrious musicians including, among the others, John Surman, Tomasz Stanko, Kenny Wheeler, Conny Bauer and Malcolm Griffiths. Graham Collier, one of the leading minds of jazz at large and also one of the few ones able to deliver himself from the schematic narrowings that have implanted cancerous cells in the genre in recent decades, intended to exploit the “collective interplay within the band where the dividing line between what is written and what is improvised becomes blurred”. The occasion was perfect for him to submit a score in which the musicians receive a great support from the composer, who wrote extremely functional parts that fuse into gratifying contrapuntal confluences on one hand, becoming foundations for immediate blazes of creativity on the other; sometimes these events occur together, and it’s right there that things get more interesting. The second movement starts with a delicious quasi-funky aroma to end with nasty solos by Ted Curson and Surman in straight free-jazz mode, while Kenny Wheeler graces the third section with a gorgeous trumpet flight over a progression that reminded me of a speedier version of Zappa’s arrangements in “Grand Wazoo”, but this is probably a coincidence. Throughout the album, the instrumental relationships keep the music confined in the no-nonsense zone, where even what could aspire to sound more anarchic (like Conny Bauer’s handy-dandy soliloquy in part 5) finds its raison d’etre in a great scheme of things that makes sure that each instrumental line completes its cycle at the necessary moment. The success of the operation is evident, not only for the enthusiastic response of the audience but also in consideration of the atavic difficulties in listening to big bands sustaining our interest for prolonged periods. Collier achieves the desired result without impinging on our need for air, his music a tangible presence that doesn’t fill the ears, instead educating them to a unique concept of jazz composition.

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