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Life and career
Born in Tynemouth, Northumberland, on leaving school Collier joined the British Army as a musician, spending three years in Hong Kong. He subsequently won a Down Beat magazine scholarship to the Berklee School of Music, Boston, studying with Herb Pomeroy and was its first British graduate in 1963. On his return to Britain he founded the first version of an ensemble devoted to his own compositions, Graham Collier Music, which included Kenny Wheeler, Harry Beckett and John Surman, and in later line-ups Karl Jenkins, Mike Gibbs, Art Themen and many other notable musicians. Collier was the first recipient of an Arts Council bursary for jazz, and was commissioned by festivals, groups and broadcasters across Europe, North America, Australia and the Far East. He produced 19 albums and CDs of his music and also worked in a wide range of other media: on stage plays and musicals, on documentary and fiction film, and on a variety of radio drama productions.
Collier was also an author and educator, having written seven books on jazz and given lectures and workshops around the world. As Simon Purcell noted, "Jazz education in the UK owes an enormous amount to Graham Collier (alongside Eddie Harvey and Lionel Grigson) without whom our current positions and extent of provision would been considerably harder to achieve." In 1987, Collier launched the jazz degree course at London’s Royal Academy of Music and was its artistic director until he resigned in 1999 to concentrate on his own music. In 1989, he was among the group of jazz educators who formed the International Association of Schools of Jazz, whose magazine, Jazz Changes, he co-edited for seven years. He was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 1987 for his services to jazz.
Latterly, Collier lived on a small island in Greece, where he composed, wrote and administered his back catalogue, travelling to present concerts and workshops around the world. His book, the jazz composer: moving music off the paper, a philosophical look at jazz and jazz composing, was published by Northway Books in 2005, and his nineteenth CD, directing 14 Jackson Pollocks, mainly recorded in 2004, was released by the jazzcontinuum label.
- Deep Dark Blue Centre. Disconforme. 1967.
- Down Another Road. Disconforme. 1969.
- Songs for My Father. Disconforme. 1970.
- Mosaics. Disconforme. 1971.
- Midnight Blue. Disconforme. 1975.
- Symphony of Scorpions. Mosaic UK. 1976.
- New Conditions. Disconforme. 1976.
- The Day of the Dead. Disconforme. 1978.
- Something British Made in Hong Kong. Mosaic UK. 1988.
- The Third Colour. Orchard. 2000.
- Darius. Disconforme. 2000.
- Portraits. Disconforme. 2000.
- Bread and Circuses. Jazzprint. 2003.
- Winter Oranges. Jazzprint. 2003.
- Charles River Fragments. Jazzprint. 2005.
- Workpoints. Cuneiform. 2005.
- Hoarded Dreams. Cuneiform. 2007.
- directing 14 Jackson Pollocks. jazzcontinuum. 2009.
- relook [posthumous compilation]. jazzcontinuum. 2012.
- Jazz - A Students' and Teachers' Guide (Hardback and Paperback, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977) Translated into German, Norwegian and Italian.
- Inside Jazz (Hardback and Paperback, London: Quartet Books, 1973)
- Compositional Devices (Boston, Mass.: Berklee Press Publications, 1975)
- Cleo and John (London: Quartet Books, 1976)
- Jazz Workshop the Blues, (Universal Edition 1988) ISBN 0-900938-61-7
- Interaction – opening up the jazz ensemble (Tübingen, Advance Books, 1995)
- the jazz composer, moving music off the paper (London: Northway Publications, 2009) ISBN 978-0-9557888-0-2
- Martin Kunzler, Jazz-Enzyklopädie Vol. 1., Rowohlt, Hamburg. ISBN 3-499-16512-0, p. 230f.