On his new album, pianist Terence Collie was not only the solo performer but also producer, sound engineer and camera operator. Album feature by John Bungey.
The ingredients were simple: a Yamaha grand piano; an empty hall; one session to wrap up the album with no more than three takes of any tune – and a good dollop of talent helped.
Alone in the hall in Sunbury-on-Thames, Terence Collie set up the mic’s, pressed the record button and proceeded to conjure the nine tunes that make up his new album, Reminiscent. In between takes, he turned on and off the cameras, documenting for later YouTube release.
“I was in there alone, which is a funny experience because you’re in your own head space; there’s no one to talk to. But making it like that it gave more of a concert feel. It was a snapshot of the moment – a record of what happened.
“All the tracks were first takes – or the first take that went from start through to finish without a break,” says Collie.
There is a plangent, reflective feel to the opener, “Ephemeral”, that recurs on the title track and on a heartfelt “Don’t Explain”. But there’s vitality too, on the Arab-inflected “Fauda Blues” or a version of “Caravan” that dances over a Jackson Five bassline. Six of the tracks are own compositions, three are imaginatively wrought standards.
Ephemeral, says Collie, was written this January as the pianist was thinking about his father’s death six years earlier, and he has a knack for creating bittersweet moods that sometimes, to these ears, have a tinge of Bill Evans.
But Collie casts his net wider: “Bill Evans is not a huge influence though I have listened to a lot of his music. It’s difficult to say who my influences are. I’ve listened to everyone and anyone. But I would say my favourite players are Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, Brad Mehldau and Michel Petrucciani.”
The record was made at the Riverside Arts Centre, the base for Collie’s multi-faceted career. There he has co-promoted monthly jazz gigs under the Mood Indigo Events banner since 2012. Last year he brought Mornington Lockett, Patrick Clahar, Dave and Judith O’Higgins and more to the Thames Street venue. And almost always Collie is at the piano. “Sometimes we do a project with an artist – paying tribute to Miles or Sonny Rollins … Other times it’s somebody bringing their original tunes.”
Selected recordings can be found on his Mood Indigo Jazz YouTube channel, as can Collie’s My Life in Music videos. In these, Collie turns interviewer as artists including Jason Rebello, Simon Spillett and Esther Bennett talk about their working lives.
Collie’s own path began when his parents, originally from the Seychelles but living in Cambridgeshire, brought a Casio keyboard home when he was 12. “I started to play by ear and always loved the idea of improvising. It led me to playing with friends at school.” He recalls epic jams on Santana’s Black Magic Woman. “I got into listening to George Benson and from there the Chick Corea Elektric Band. That was my way in and then I moved on to acoustic jazz. That’s when I realised, this is what I really want to do.”
Mostly self-taught, Collie was soon good enough to be making his living in a function band on the Channel Islands where he also played jazz. In the 1990s Jersey was home to a vibrant scene, he says. Back in England, he began a residency at the Pizza Express in Cambridge. Playing six days a week he learnt a vast repertoire of standards that has held him in good stead in a career that has taken him round the country’s key jazz clubs and festivals. He has played with musicians including Kyle Eastwood, Esther Bennett, Jo Harrop and Tony Woods. As leader, he has detoured into jazz fusion, making two self-composed albums with his band Prison Break, and continues to perform with his own trio.
Now 52, he’s open to new directions. “I’d like to write some things for a larger ensemble,” he says. In the past he has augmented his trio with violin, viola and cello and is keen to write for strings again. As Collie says in his own “My Life in Music” video, jazz is about “making it up as I go along”. And maybe that applies to life too.
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Digital downloads and physical CDs are available now on Bandcamp. Reminiscent album launch: Café Yukari, Kew, TW9 4HJ, 26 March. Worldwide digital release, March 27.
LINKS Terence Collie website / album details
Categories: Feature/Interview, Feature/Interview (PP)
This album is phenomenal, the pianist has incredible touch and depth of feeling. I have admiration and respect for this solo pianist who has produced a stunning masterpiece all on his own. Bravo.