by Ian Mann
April 04, 2023
Collie has risen to the challenge of the solo piano album in impressive fashion, with the subtle balance between melody and rhythm apparent throughout.
Terence Collie – solo piano
London based pianist and composer Terence Collie is also a respected promoter, co-ordinating the Mood Indigo Events organisation in conjunction with vocalist Janet McCunn.
MIE present performances at a variety of venues in the London area, among them the Riverside Arts Centre in Sunbury-on-Thames, the 1901 Arts Club in Waterloo and the Jazz on The Plaza series at Café Yukari in Richmond. They also co-ordinated the regular ‘Janet’s Jazz Night’ events at Polish Jazz Café POSK in Hammersmith. Collie has also been involved with the organising of the now defunct TW12 Jazz Festival in Twickenham.
MIE have also established strong links with Brecon Jazz Festival and were part of the 2020 Virtual Brecon Jazz Festival. In 2022 as things began to return to normal after the pandemic Collie was invited to Brecon to perform live at that year’s Jazz Festival. His Panoply Trio, featuring bassist Marianne Windham and drummer Caroline Boaden, played an excellent and very well received set at the Castle Hotel.
The Festival also included performances in front of a live audience at the Riverside Arts Centre in Sunbury by the Atsuko Shimada / Alan Barnes Quintet and the Juan Galiardo Trio streamed directly to The Muse at Brecon. The Panoply Trio gig plus the two livestreams are reviewed elsewhere on The Jazzmann as part of our Festival coverage.
Collie remained active throughout lockdown co-ordinating numerous livestream events and also collaborating with vocalist Esther Bennett on her adventurous new album “Home Is Where The Arts Is”, released in late 2022. Review here;
As a pianist, composer and bandleader Collie has released two albums with his band Prison Break, featuring saxophonist Ritchie Garrison, bassist Joe Sam and drummer John Sam. “Doing Time” appeared in 2011 with “And Again” following in 2013.
Collie’s next project was a three piece featuring clarinettist / saxophonist Matt Dibble and bassist Nick Lenner-Webster, this line up releasing the self explanatory “Trio” in 2017.
2018’s “TC3+” saw a core trio of Collie, bassist Paul Michael and drummer Rha Stranges augmented by string players Agata Kubiak (violin), Raisa Zapryanova (viola) and Andrea Derdák (cello).
With his creative juices sharpened by his lockdown activities Collie returned to active recording in February 2023 with “Reminiscent”, a solo piano recording documented at MIE’s regular venue, The Riverside Arts Centre in Sunbury. The tracks were self recorded by Collie using his own mobile recording system with the pianist giving himself the self imposed limitation of no more than three complete takes of each tune before moving to the next piece.
The programme features six Collie originals, including some composed in January 2023 specifically for this project, plus three arrangements of classic jazz standards. The music was recorded on 7th February 2023 and the album released on March 27th, a remarkably rapid turnaround.
The album commences with Collie’s original composition “Ephemeral”, one of the pieces written in January 2023. It’s a lyrical, reflective piece that also has a wistful quality about it, a gentle expression of the kind of optimism that stems from the coming of a New Year, and also from the return to normality. The Panoply Trio performance had demonstrated that Collie is a highly accomplished pianist and a superb technician and here he strikes a good balance between the right and left hands.
I’m not sure if “And Again” is a tune that dates back to the Prison Break days. It’s a more upbeat piece with a greater focus on rhythm and time signature changes. It also features strong melodies and one can readily imagine the piece being performed by a trio or quartet.
“Lujon / I Thought About You” is the first of the covers, seamlessly combining a Henry Mancini composition with a song written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Mercer. Again there is a good balance between melody and rhythm.
Collie’s own “Fauda Blues” brings a hint of Middle Eastern exotica to the music, combining strong left hand rhythms with seductive right hand melodies.
The composer describes his title track as “a brooding minor tune with a modal feel, written some time ago, but previously unrecorded”. It’s a reflective piece, similar in feel to the album opener, and sees Collie exploring the contours of his composition in leisurely fashion, probing with a gentle subtlety and intelligence.
Collie’s trio performance at Brecon included an arrangement of Duke Ellington / Juan Tizol’s “Caravan”. At the time I described it as “the tune that just keeps giving, it’s been approached in so many different ways but always ends up sounding fresh and exciting”. That’s also true of this solo piano version, which retains the spirit of the original while giving it a contemporary and personal twist. Powerful left hand rhythms are complemented by agile right hand melodic flourishes and darting runs.
Another of the pieces to have been played at Brecon was “Hubble 30”, written in 2020 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the famous telescope, the idea for the composition originally coming from Collie’s sister. This solo piano version is gently lyrical and is possessed of a suitably ‘spacious’ quality. I remember the live performance of this piece being notable for the high level of rapport between Collie and drummer Caroline Boaden.
“August” was written for the MIE / Brecon collaboration with the title celebrating both the month in which Brecon Jazz Festival is held and also Collie’s own birth date of August 22nd. At just under three minutes running time it’s the shortest track on the album, but is a bright and uplifting tune that squeezes a lot of information into the course of its brief duration. Joyous and invigorating it represents a genuine celebration.
The album concludes with Collie’s arrangement of the song “Don’t Explain”, co-written by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog Jr. A spacious arrangement that makes effective use of the piano’s broad range of sonorities and captures something of the sadness of the original, but casts it in a wholly contemporary light. It’s a superb performance full of melancholic, but beautiful, lyricism.
Collie also acts as producer, working in conjunction with engineer Barry Gardner, and the pair have delivered a beautiful mix that brings out all the melodic and rhythmic nuances of Collie’s playing, with the subtle balance between melody and rhythm apparent throughout. Much of the playing is sublimely beautiful but there’s a substance and intelligence about the music that helps it transcend mere ‘prettiness’. A well balanced programme touches a variety musical and emotional bases but the overall feel is of an intelligent and beautiful lyricism. Collie has risen to the challenge of the solo piano album in impressive fashion.
Having very much enjoyed this album (thank you Terence for forwarding it to me) I’m hoping that the links between MIE and Brecon Jazz will be maintained and that Collie will be visiting Brecon Jazz Festival again this year, perhaps to perform music from this very album.
“Reminiscent” is available from Terence Collie’s Bandcamp page.
See also https://www.tcollie.co.uk/blog comments powered by Disqus