|Jon Hiseman playing at Pizza Express Jazz Club in Febuary 2018
Photo credit: Paul Wood
Peter Bacon reports:
The death has been announced of Jon Hiseman, drummer and leader of the jazz rock band Colosseum. According to an announcement by his family, he “passed away peacefully at 3.55 this morning”. In May he had been diagnosed with a brain tumour. He was 73.
Hiseman was born in London on 21 June 1944 and studied violin and piano until he was 13; he taught himself to play the drums. He was a founder member of the New Jazz Orchestra in 1964, and also played with the Graham Bond Organization and with Georgie Fame’s Blue Flames. After a period with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers he formed Colosseum, which operated between 1968 and 1971, followed by Colosseum II from ’75 to ’78. He reformed the band in 1994.
He married saxophonist Barbara Thompson and played in her band Paraphernalia from 1979. He also played in the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble from the mid-‘70s. His most recent project was the trio JCM (with guitarist Clem Clempson and bassist Mark Clarke).
John Hiseman was also a very active engineer, producer and label boss of TM Records.
His story was told in Martyn Hanson’s biography, Playing The Band – The Musical Life of Jon Hiseman, published in 2010.
Tributes on Twitter include “a great drummer and human being” from Jan Akkerman, and “great drummer, lovely person” from Julian Lloyd Webber.
John Etheridge told LJN: “I’m so shocked by this. Jon was the most admirable and impressive man – band leader, fabulous drummer, composer, record producer, all-round positive energy – and, most importantly, inspirational and devoted carer for Barbara in her long illness – so much so that he became a world authority on caring for Parkinson’s. Astonishing energy, vitality and intelligence – always able to solve a problem. I can’t belive he’s gone.”
Here is the New York Times obituary.
LINK: Chris Parker’s review of Playing The Band – The Musical Life of Jon Hiseman
I am in shock. John was one of the most caring people I have ever met and a brilliant musician and producer. This is a huge loss. My sincerest condolences to Barbara.
Jon was a huge influence on my drumming when I was growing up. I only really knew his work with Paraphernalia, but thought his playing was amazing, incredibly innovative, especially in the way he was able to use all the sounds of a very large kit, but always with a terrific groove.
In the last few years I got to know him personally. Sometimes meeting your heroes is a disappointment, but not Jon. He was a man of boundless energy, always engaged in a project, always ready to talk about what he was doing with enormous enthusiasm and an encyclopaedic grasp of the detail! He knew so much about so many things, spending time with him was always an education.
My fondest memory is sitting with him in his studio, listening to a John Coltrane LP and discussing Elvin's slow swing playing, which we did for about an hour.
RIP Jon; can't believe you're gone.
A bigger influence than most will be aware.
Thank you, Jon.
Safe journey home.
Jon's career ranged from Howard Riley, Graham Bond, Jack Bruce, Georgie Fame, John Mayall, his own bands Colosseum & Tempest to Andrew Lloyd Webber. He was a key figure in the UK music scene as a player and as a record producer: his earnings from Colosseum went into setting up Temple recording studio in his house in Sutton – now one of the largest studios in London. Recently he added video to his accomplishments, working with Mike Westbrook and Tim Whitehead.
I remember him especially in 3 contexts:
In the late 60s he was, with Neil Ardley, a driving force behind the New Jazz Orchestra – for my money one of the greatest of all big bands. It included the likes of Kenny Wheeler, Ian Carr, Henry Lowther, Harry Beckett, Barbara Thompson, Dick Heckstall Smith, Dave Gelly, Don Rendell, playing arrangements by Neil Ardley, Mike Gibbs & Michael Garrick. Check out Jon's work on “Dejeuner sur l'herbe” on the Dusk Fire CD reissue -an indispensable album.
For several months in every year he worked in Europe as the powerhouse drummer with the United Jazz Rock Ensemble with regular members (among others) Eberhard Weber, Wofgang Dauner, Ian Carr, Kenny Wheeler, Albert Mangelsdorff, Barbara Thompson, Charlie Mariano and Volker Kriegel. This band was formed as a house band for a series on a German TV station (SDR) and worked extensively in Europe over a period of 27 years, but only ever played once in the UK. They recorded 14 albums and there are lots of videos of them on YouTube, where their body of work is a sort of testimony to the insularity of the BBC where this kind of initiative would have been, and still is, impossible.
His devotion to his wife Barbara Thompson, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1997, was inspirational. He was her drummer in Paraphernalia (her regular band) and she joined the revived Colosseum on the death of Dick Heckstall Smith finally retiring in 2017 to concentrate on composing. Jon added the role of “expert carer” to all his other roles and spoke on the topic at medical conferences. He also formed a band – Brainstorm – with two eminent professors of Neurology.
There's an unforgettable scene in Mike Dibb's 2012 BBC film about Parkinson's “Playing against Time” with Jon as the care giver who gets Barbara onto the stage at a concert in Stuttgart. He is patient, good-humoured, tender and incredibly knowledgeable about her condition as he gets Barbara ready to play. Then he becomes the leader of a band playing before thousands at a large open-air festival.
He will be sorely missed.