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November 10, 2004

Longtime jazz duo perform Nov. 18

Tom Collier and Dan Dean have been making music together for almost 40 years, but they’ve only managed to make two recordings in that time — the last one 25 years ago. Now, however, they have a new CD out, and the UW audience can get a preview of some of that music at a concert Thursday, Nov. 18 in Brechemin Auditorium.


Collier, director of percussion studies at the UW School of Music, will play vibes, while Dean, a UW graduate who heads DDP, a company that creates sampled instrument libraries for GigaStudio and other formats, will play electric bass. The concert is part of the music school’s Mallet Head Series.


Collier and Dean began their joint music making at an early age, when Collier’s family moved into Dean’s West Seattle neighborhood. Collier described their meeting this way:


“Shortly after we moved in this kid came over, said he’d heard me practicing and he wanted to see my drums. He started messing around with them and pretty soon we were playing together regularly.”


Starting with USO shows for Vietnam-bound troops, which they performed with Collier’s family, the two progressed to playing professionally in a jazz piano trio while still in their teens.


Collier, who is three years older, entered the UW first and studied jazz with William O. Smith, now a professor emeritus. “I was playing in a student group he coached, and one night he asked me if I could perform in a gig he had lined up,” Collier said. “That was unusual, to get to perform with a professor, and a great opportunity for me.”


He continued with Smith’s group, and one night when their bass player couldn’t make a gig, Collier recommended Dean. The three eventually became the Bill Smith Trio, playing jazz and contemporary music at clubs around Seattle.


Both Collier and Dean spent some time in Los Angeles after college, mostly recording music for films and TV. It was after both had returned, in 1979, that their only other recording — called Whistling Midgets — was made.


“It got good reviews and sold pretty well for a jazz album, but the record company went bankrupt halfway through the promotion, so it was a long time before we could get the rights back,” Collier said.


Meanwhile, Collier began teaching at the UW School of Music and Dean became deeply involved in music production. The years slipped by, and although the two continued to perform together from time to time, they didn’t make any more recordings.


Then last year, they just decided it was time. Duets is the result, a CD that includes jazz standards such as John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” and Miles Davis’ “So What,” along with two new compositions each by Collier and Dean. They’ll be playing that music at the concert.


“Playing with Dan is a pleasure because we know each other’s moves so well,” Collier said. “Jazz is 90 percent improvisation, and we can follow each other and anticipate each other’s moves. It’s hard to do that unless you know someone well.”


Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. concert are $12 ($10 for students and seniors) and are available at the door.