Tom Collier

Tom Collier

Musicians | Instrument: Vibraphone | Location: Seattle

Collier is so well-equipped academically that his sleight-of-hand solos already are a fascinating study.
—Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times

Updated: April 10, 2022

Born: June 30, 1948

In a career spanning 60+ years, Tom Collier celebrated his first public performance playing the marimba at the age of 5 in 1954 and marked the 60th anniversary of that performance with a 2014 concert at Meany Hall Studio Theater on the University of Washington campus. The concert featured several guest artists including guitarist Larry Coryell, mallet virtuoso Emil Richards, clarinetist William O. "Bill" Smith, drummer Moyes Lucas, pianist Marc Seales, and longtime musical cohort/electric bassist Dan Dean.

After a six year gap between album projects, Tom released "The Color Of Wood" (Summit Records, April 2022) comprised of mostly original compositions written for and performed exclusively on the marimba. Although some of the album's tracks feature layered marimba parts (via overdubbing techniques), many other songs were recorded in a single pass - "true" solo performances. The album was recorded over a three year period in two different Seattle-area studios on three different model marimbas. No other instruments were used in making the album, and Collier is the only performer.

Through the years, Collier has appeared in concert and on recordings with many important jazz and popular artists including Eddie Daniels, Ry Cooder, Earl "Fatha" Hines, Roger Kellaway, Emil Richards, Don Grusin, Alex Acuña, Frank Zappa, Ralph Humphrey, Victor Feldman, Howard Roberts, Ernie Watts, Dave Holland, Cal Tjader, Shelly Manne, Joe Porcaro, Laurindo Almeida, Buddy DeFranco, Cuong Vu, Diane Schurr, Peggy Lee, Natalie Cole, Morganna King, Herb Ellis, Bill Mays, Bobby Shew, Ernestine Anderson, Mannheim Steamroller, Sammy Davis, Jr., Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Olivia Newton- John, The Beach Boys, The Mills Brothers, Della Reese and many more.

In addition to his latest album, Collier has released several jazz albums as leader or co-leader beginning with "Whistling Midgets" (with long-time musical cohort Dan Dean) for Inner City Records in 1981. Collier and Dean's 2005 album, "Duets" on Origin Records, was nominated for "2005 Jazz Album of the Year" by Earshot Magazine. Other recordings include "Illusion" (1988, T.C. Records), "Pacific Aire" (1990, Nebula Records), and "Mallet Jazz" (2004, Origin Records). Collier & Dean released their third album, "Sleek Buick", in August, 2014 on the Origin label featuring several significant jazz artists including saxophonists Ernie Watts and Gary Herbig, trumpeter Allen Vizzutti, pianist Don Grusin, and drummers Alex Acuña and Ted Poor. "Sleek Buick" received extensive national and international radio airplay spending 15 weeks on the JazzWeek Top 200 radio chart.

in 2014, Tom was awarded a Royalty Research Grant by the University of Washington to produce three new recordings in three different settings: (1) a solo vibes/marimba album ("Alone In The Studio", Origin Records, April 2015), (2) a recording of original jazz compositions for quartet featuring guitarists Bill Frisell and Larry Coryell entitled "Across The Bridge" (Origin Records, November 2015), and (3) an experimental free improvisation trio album, "Impulsive Illuminations" (Origin Records, April 2016), featuring trumpeter Cuong Vu, trombonist Stuart Dempster, drummer Ted Poor, clarinetist William O. Smith, and pianist Richard Karpen.

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"Collier ... is so well-equipped academically that his sleight-of-hand solos already are a fascinating study." -Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times-

"Collier’s mellow reverberation on the vibes has a graceful, ruminative sway. He maintains the song structure, but with freewheeling agility." - Scott Yanow, Jazz Historian and Journalist-

"Tom Collier, a great vibes player...." -Emil Richards autobiography, "Wonderful World Of Percussion"-

"Tom Collier ... one of the best jazz vibraphonists on the planet." -Scott Mercado interview, Modern Drummer Magazine-

"Collier turns phrases and builds lines that set a new musical standard for the vibraphone." -F. Michael Combs, Percussive Notes/Percussive Arts Society-

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Artists who share similar musical characteristics to Tom Collier.

Roy Ayers
Gary Burton
Bill Frisell
guitar, electric
Lionel Hampton
Bobby Hutcherson
Milt Jackson
Mike Mainieri
Red Norvo
Cal Tjader


Odious Mode

From: Impulsive Illuminations
By Tom Collier

California Avenue

From: Sleek Buick
By Tom Collier