Hindsight is arguably always a dubious benefit, but in this case it reveals that Hoarded Dreams just might be a touchstone for Graham Collier's music, more specifically the inventions for large ensembles that he's been fashioning for the last thirty-odd years.
This disc was recorded at the Bracknell Jazz Festival in England in 1983, and Collier was fortunate indeed in securing the services of a crack band for the realisation of his extended piece. What's perhaps most notable about the music is the way in which the nineteen musicians are never called upon to display power for its own sake, a tribute to both the deftness and character of Collier's writing and the players' grasp and interpretation of it.
Six of the composition's seven parts feature soloists, and again, the band is not found wanting. John Surman plays with a fire he's hardly replicated on a lot of his ECM output, and guitarist Ed Speight deserves special mention as well, not only because he has figured prominently in Collier's bands in the past, but also because he is a musician for whom the term "underrated" might have been invented. The same could be said for trumpeter Henry Lowther, whose work is a joy on "Part Two"in which the occurrence of a boppish, composed unison line in the trumpets at the twelve-minute mark comes as an unexpected but pleasing surprise.
The transition between parts two and three is the most graphic example of how much dynamic variation is on offer here. Speight's guitar, rife with the lyrical strain that's always been an integral part of his work, is all over the opening couple of minutes of the latter part. Again, the intimate nature of the relationship between Collier the composer and the musicians is a thing of wonder.
"Part Five" reveals another strand of Collier's musical thinking, dealing as it does in a particularly high degree of abstraction, and again the soloists are absolutely crucial to its realisation. Tomasz Stanko's trumpet ignites abstract fireworks at both the open and close of the piece, and Collier's dark, brooding writing for the horns creates the impression of something pretty close to unique within big band music.
When it comes down to it, this music passes what I'm increasingly calling "the repeated listening test," which can reveal previously hidden depths with every successive spin. As such, in his flagrant and wholly admirable disregard for formula, Collier might be a spirit somewhat akin to Gerald Wilson, and that's no bad thing.
Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7.