Jazz Composers Collective

Michael Blake, Ron Horton, Ted Nash, Ben Allison, Frank Kimbrough
photo © Lourdes Delgado

The Jazz Composers Collective was a musician-run, non-profit corporation dedicated to presenting original music by its composers-in-residence and its guest composers.

When Ben Allison proposed forming the Collective to Kimbrough and a handful of other players, Kimbrough embraced the idea fully. Here was a chance to take the composer-oriented jam sessions that both Kimbrough and Allison had been running for some time and not only take the music to the next level, but to the public as well. In the fall of 1992 with their own money the newly-formed Collective created a concert series that would present adventurous jazz to New York City audiences for twelve years, resulting in the release of more than twenty CDs by their composers-in-residence. The basic format remained the same for 11 seasons: the core Collective composers-in-residence Ben Allison, Michael Blake, Ron Horton, and Ted Nash, and Frank Kimbrough each put on one concert per season, sharing half the evening with a guest composer. Collective groups also hit the road beginning in 1997, performing in concerts, clubs and festivals in the US, Canada, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Germany, Holland, Belgium, the United Kingdom, France, Austria, Spain, Portugal, The Azores, and Brazil.

"The Jazz Composers Collective is a virtual study of the positive effects that the DIY (do it yourself) ethic can bring about. They are, in an unassuming way, producing some of the most vital improvised and composed music coming out of New York today. Playing on each other's projects, helping to organize concerts, pooling efforts to produce the smart, informative newsletter that detail their activities - everyone helps out for the massed good of the members and audience." - Craig Nixon, Revolution in Sound Reviews

For Kimbrough, the Collective was a vital addition to his musical career. It provided an invaluable support system for him both as a composer and as a pianist there was always a dialogue, always someone to help with problem solving. Everyone shared information freely, with music and growth being the primary considerations. The Collective's concert series provided many opportunities for Frank to present his music in a healthy and inspiring environment. Whether putting together concerts of new music, producing or promoting their recordings, or working in an educational environment, it was always a learning experience.

In addition to his own projects, Kimbrough was active in realizing and documenting music composed by the Collective's other composers-in-residence: Ben Allison (Medicine Wheel, Peace Pipe), Michael Blake (Free Association, Elevated Quartet, Eulipion Orchestra), Ted Nash (Still Evolved, Double Quartet + 1), Ron Horton's Quartet and Sextet, and the Collective Big Band. He initiated the Herbie Nichols Project, and participated in the Collective's concerts devoted to the music of Andrew Hill, Lennie Tristano, and Lucky Thompson, respectively. HE also participated in other Collective concerts, playing in ensembles led by guest composers Eddie Gale, Joe Locke, and Jon Gordon.

"For the past decade some of the most original and intriguing sounds to be heard in New York jazz circles have come from the Jazz Composers Collective." - Bob Blumenthal, The Atlantic Monthly

Cross-pollination between individual musicians and between musical scenes was one of the hallmarks of the Collective. The benefit was greatest for the core composers, who gave each other much-needed constructive criticism and support during rehearsals leading up to performances and recordings. Each concert was recorded, with two of Kimbrough's eventually being released - Quickening (OmniTone), a trio with Ben Allison and Jeff Ballard; and Noumena (Soul Note), with Scott Robinson, Ben Monder, and Tony Moreno. The musicians thrived on playing in an acoustically-viable space to a committed listening audience, and drew inspiration from the constant inflow of new creative blood represented by the guest composers featured on each concert. The Collective excelled at straddling the downtown and uptown scenes, working with and presenting composers from both, while also pleasing both hard core jazz audiences and new audiences previously unfamiliar with their music, or with jazz in general.

"The still-young Jazz Composers Collective has become the very model 21st century creators cooperative..." Howard Mandel, Downbeat

(The Collective) "has become an imprimatur of indie credibility a musician-run organization whose band members are all putting high intelligence into their craft." Ben Ratliff, The New York Times

"These guys are among the most open-minded individuals on the jazz scene, so don't be surprised if postbop that seems inside suddenly turns 'out', downtown moves up and you find yourself cheering the whole way through."
K. Leander Williams, Time Out

"What the Jazz Composers Collective's members have achieved is nothing less than a jazz revolution. They have transformed jazz conventions without destroying them. They have fused incongruous musical elements in meaningful, organic ways; they have co-opted textures and sonorities from free jazz and world music into a mainstream -jazz context. The result is a new vision of uncompromising but widely accessible jazz that can attract an audience without pandering." Ed Hazell, Boston Phoenix
Though the Collective no longer exists as an official entity, its members are still playing together, and the achievments of their dozen years of work will continue to inspire them in their new endeavors. The Jazz Composers Collective website contains a more detailed history, along with archived newsletters and information on the Collective's annual festivals at Jazz Standard.

Visit the Jazz Composers Collective website