Colosseum (band)

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For other uses, see Colosseum (disambiguation).
Colosseum in 2010
Background information
Origin England
Years active 1968–1971, 1994-2015
Associated acts
Past members

Colosseum were a pioneering English progressive jazz-rock band,[2] mixing progressive rock and jazz-based improvisation.[3]

History 1968–1971[edit]

The band was formed in September 1968 by drummer Jon Hiseman, tenor sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith and bass player Tony Reeves, who had previously worked together in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers on the Bare Wires album. Dave Greenslade, on organ, was immediately recruited, and the line-up was completed by Jim Roche on guitar, although Roche only recorded one track before being replaced by James Litherland, (guitar and vocals). Hiseman and Heckstall-Smith had also previously played in Graham Bond's band, and Colosseum utilised several of the songs from that period.[2]

The band made their live debut in Newcastle[citation needed] and were promptly recorded by influential BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel for his Top Gear Radio program. This appearance gained them valuable exposure and critical acclaim.[citation needed]

Their first album, Those Who Are About to Die Salute You, which opened with the Bond composition "Walkin' in the Park", was released by the Fontana label in 1969, and in March the same year they played at the Supershow, a recorded two-day jam session, along with Modern Jazz Quartet, Led Zeppelin, Jack Bruce, Roland Kirk Quartet, Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills, and Juicy Lucy.[4] Colosseum's second album, also in 1969, was Valentyne Suite,[5] notable as the first release from Vertigo Records, a branch of Philips Records established to sign and develop artists that did not fit the main Philips brand, and the first label to sign heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath.

For the third album, The Grass Is Greener, released only in the United States in 1970, Dave "Clem" Clempson replaced James Litherland. Louis Cennamo then replaced Tony Reeves on bass, but was replaced by Mark Clarke within a month, and Hiseman recruited vocalist Chris Farlowe to enable Clempson to concentrate on guitar. This lineup had already partly recorded the 1970 album Daughter of Time.

In March 1971, the band recorded its concerts at the Big Apple Club in Brighton and at Manchester University. Hiseman was impressed with the atmosphere at the Manchester show, and the band returned five days later for a free concert that was also recorded. The recordings were released as a live double album Colosseum Live in 1971, shortly before the original band broke up. Tracks recorded at Bristol University's Student Union were also used on the live album.

Interim 1971-1994[edit]

After the band split, Jon Hiseman formed Tempest with bassist Mark Clarke; Dave Greenslade formed Greenslade with Tony Reeves; Clem Clempson joined Humble Pie; Chris Farlowe joined Atomic Rooster; and Dick Heckstall-Smith embarked on a solo career.

Hiseman reformed the group as Colosseum II in 1975, with a stronger orientation towards jazz-fusion rock and a new lineup, featuring guitarist Gary Moore, and Don Airey on keyboards. They released three albums before disbanding in 1978.

Reunion 1994-2015[edit]

Colosseum reunited on June 24, 1994 at the Freiburg Zelt Musik Festival, played their second reunion concert in Cologne on the 28th October at E-Werk, which was followed by a tour in 1995. The concert in Cologne was recorded for a TV Special and released in 1995 as a CD and video. Later in 2003 it was released also as a DVD. Colosseum made second tour after reunion in 1997 to support their new studio CD "Bread and Circuses", appeared in major festivals in 1998, made also some appearances in 1999 and 2000.

In 2003 they made a tour for "Tomorrow's Blues" CD, followed also by gigs in England in 2004. Hiseman's wife, saxophonist Barbara Thompson, joined the band on various occasions before the death of Dick Heckstall-Smith in December 2004 and has been since a permanent member of the band.[6]

In 2005 there were three memorial concerts for Dick Heckstall-Smith, one in Germany, Hamburg and two in England. On the 24th of September in 2005 they played in Moscow. There were some concerts also in 2006. In 2007 Colosseum played Tokyo and made a tour mainly in Germany. Touring continued again in 2010 and 2011.

In October 2010, Jon Hiseman's biography, Playing the Band - The Musical Life of Jon Hiseman, was published. In November 2012, a Kindle version (with minor re-edits) of Playing the Band was published.[7]

Colosseum played their "Summer 2011" tour of 22 gigs in Germany, Italy, Austria, Finland and Poland. The tour started in June and ended on the 20th of August in Germany, Rostock, at Bad Doberan "Zappanale" festival. According to the interview of the bandleader Jon Hiseman Bad Doberan was the last concert of the band. Their second last concert was in Poland, Slupsk, at "Legends of Rock" festival on August 13, 2011 and the third last concert in Finland, Äänekoski, at "Keitelejazz" festival on the July 23, 2011.

New studio releases followed,[8] as expanded editions of Valentyne Suite and Colosseum Live, and several compilation sets of earlier work. Colosseum started recording for a new album in May 2011, which resulted finally to new "Time on our side" album in 2014.

In 2014/2015 Colosseum toured Europe with 24 concerts during 2014 in Central Europe, starting 2014-10-23 at Steinegg Festival, Collepietra, Italy, and few concerts in February 2015 ending 2015-02-28 at Shepherd's Bush Empire, London W12. During the tour they released their new album Time on our side. The album had the work name Anno Domini. Whilst still on the road Jon Hiseman announced that the 2014/2015 tour was Colosseum's last.[9]

Colosseum played their farewell concert on the 2015-02-28 at full-packed Shepherd's Bush Empire, London W12. Ana Gracey, the daughter of Jon Hiseman and Barbara Thompson, sang in the concert with Chris Farlowe her composition "Blues to Music" which she also has recorded with Colosseum.


Colosseum/Colosseum II Timeline[edit]


Studio albums[edit]


Live albums[edit]

Compilation albums[edit]

  • The Collectors Colosseum – (1971)
  • Milestones – (1989)
  • Daughter Of Time – (1991)
  • The Time Machine – (1991)
  • Anthology – (2000) (2-CD collection)
  • Morituri Te Salutant – (2009) (4-CD collection)

See also[edit]


  • Hanson, Martyn: Playing The Band - The Musical Life of Jon Hiseman, 2010, London, Temple Music Books, ISBN 978-0-9566863-0-5


  1. ^ Deming, Mark. "Colosseum". Allmusic. Retrieved 20 November 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Larkin C 'Virgin Encyclopedia of Sixties Music' (Muze UK Ltd, 1997) ISBN 0-7535-0149-X p69 - in which he states 'the commercial acceptance of jazz rock in the U.K. was mainly due to Colossseum.'
  3. ^ "COLOSSEUM discography (top albums), MP3, videos and reviews". Retrieved 2015-07-02. 
  4. ^ "March 25, 1969". Led Zeppelin Timeline. Retrieved 22 January 2011. 
  5. ^ Ben Miler, Colosseum: Valentyne Suite (1969),, October 14, 2002.
  6. ^ "Interview:Jon Hiseman (Colosseum,Tempest,Graham Bond,Jack Bruce)". Retrieved 2015-07-02. 
  7. ^ "Playing The Band eBook: Martyn Hanson, Colin Richardson: Kindle Store". Retrieved 2015-07-02. 
  8. ^ "Colosseum2011update". Retrieved 2015-07-02. 
  9. ^ Hiseman, Jon. "Jon Hiseman’s Message to Fans on Facebook". Retrieved 2015-03-07.