Tom Collier – Across The Bridge – Origin 82703, 56:31 ****1/2:
Seattle vibraphonist is masterful on his latest release.
(Tom Collier – vibraphone, marimba; Larry Coryell – guitar; Bill Frisell – guitar; Dan Dean – bass, guitar; John Bishop – drums; Ted Poor – drums)
Tom Collier’s career as a vibraphonist is unlike any other. He has played with an eclectic, diverse group of artists including Frank Zappa, Dave Holland, The Beach Boys, Cal Tjader, Shelley Manne, Earl “Fatha” Hines, Barbra Streisand, Ry Cooder, Peggy Lee, Manheim Steamroller and The Mills Brothers. As leader, he has been recording since 1981 (including a near four-decade association with Dan Dean).
Collier has garnered an equally legitimate reputation as a classical player, performing with The Seattle Symphony, Bellevue Philharmonic, Denver Northwest Symphony, Everest Symphony, and the Olympia Symphony. He has played tympani with The Northwest Resource Center. As a classical musician, he released classical recordings like Mallet Fantastique (2010) and Tom Collier Plays Haydn, Mozart, Telemann And Others (2012). Collier is also very involved in music education. He has been the Director of Percussion Studies at University Of Washington, and has been awarded a Royal Research Grant from UW to fund three albums.
On Collier’s latest release, Across The Bridge, he establishes the diversity and technical fluency that has become his trademark. Backed by a revolving all-star guitar crew (Larry Coryell, Bill Frisel and Dan Dean – who also handles bass duties) and alternating drummers (John Bishop & Ted Poor), Collier invigorates nine original compositions. The opening track (“The Junction”) is a hard-charging piece with jagged Coryell guitar lines and a gritty solo. Collier’s runs display-controlled precision but sustain a colorful high-energy. Bishop also contributes a solo. Dean adopts a funky walking bass line to kick off the vampy “Beach Drive”. Bill Frisell evokes the ambiance of the title with echo-laden guitar riffs. There is a steady, pulsating beat. After Frisell’s artful solo, Collier slides in with a vibrant, sophisticated run before handing it off to Dean. The bassist shines on a nimble solo as Poor complements the band with his patented tempo stops and steady cadence.
The group demonstrates its versatility at every turn. “Gold “N” Blues” is snappy and swings. Regardless of the lineup, the ensemble plays with chemistry and swagger. Each cut is different. On “The Admiral’s Point Of View”, there is a funky downbeat, and a soulful resonance. Collier can be atmospheric or dynamic in his compelling vibes mastery. There are some interesting chord modulations. The emphatic rhythm continues on “47th ’n Hudson” as Frisell and Collier establish counterpoints. Collier’s solos have flourishes and punctuated, rhythmic accents. Poor gets an extended solo.
Switching to ballad mode, “Genesee” is relaxed and melodic. Coryell’s acoustic guitar adds to the overall gentler texture. The understated vibe play is glowing. Collier recreates this languid dreamscape on “Fauntelroy Mist”. He is generous with his band- mates and their contributions to the unique aural imagery of each number. But the percussive influences emphasize the cohesion and passion of the music. “Harmonious Effusion On Olga Street” is up-tempo and percolating. Dean shines on guitar and bass. The title cut finale is pulsating and hypnotic. It has many syncopated rhythms and the addition of marimba is a nice touch. Bishop’s hard-driving drumming propels the jam, and the vibes are buoyantly vigorous.
Across The Bridge is simply…great music!
TrackList: The Junction; Beach Drive; Gold ‘N’ Blues; The Admiral’s Point Of View; 47th ‘N Hudson; Genesee; Harmonious Effusion On Olga Street; Fauntleroy Mist; Across The Bridge