Tom Collier

Tom Collier


In a career spanning 60+ years, Tom Collier celebrated his first public performance playing the marimba at the age of 5 in 1954 and marked the 60th anniversary of that performance with a 2014 concert at Meany Hall Studio Theater on the University of Washington campus. The concert featured several guest artists including guitarist Larry Coryell, mallet virtuoso Emil Richards, clarinetist William O. “Bill” Smith, drummer Moyes Lucas, pianist Marc Seales, and longtime musical cohort/electric bassist Dan Dean.

Collier’s thirteenth album as a solo artist, Boomer Vibes, Volume 1, was released in April 2023 on Summit Records. The CD features Tom playing a multitude of instruments including his first recorded use of the VanderPlas electric vibraphone. Boomer Vibes, Volume 1 (and later Volumes 2 & 3) is his first recording comprised entirely of songs not composed by Collier. As reflected in the album title, the CD tracks are representative of classic baby-boomer era songs from the 1960’s and 1970’s.

After a six year gap between album projects, Tom released The Color Of Wood (Summit Records, April 2022) comprised of mostly original compositions written for and performed exclusively on the marimba. Although some of the album’s tracks feature layered marimba parts (via overdubbing techniques), many other songs were recorded in a single pass or “true” solo performances. The album was recorded over a three year period in two different Seattle-area studios on three different model marimbas. No other instruments were used in making the album, and Collier is the only performer.

Through the years, Collier has appeared in concert and on recordings with many important jazz and popular artists including Eddie Daniels, Ry Cooder, Earl “Fatha” Hines, Roger Kellaway, Emil Richards, Don Grusin, Alex Acuña, Frank Zappa, Ralph Humphrey, Victor Feldman, Howard Roberts, Ernie Watts, Dave Holland, Cal Tjader, Shelly Manne, Joe Porcaro, Laurindo Almeida, Buddy DeFranco, Cuong Vu, Diane Schurr, Peggy Lee, Natalie Cole, Morganna King, Herb Ellis, Bill Mays, Bobby Shew, Ernestine Anderson, Mannheim Steamroller, Sammy Davis, Jr., Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Olivia Newton-John, The Beach Boys, The Mills Brothers, Della Reese and many more.

In addition to his latest album, Collier has released several jazz albums as leader or co-leader beginning with Whistling Midgets (with long-time musical cohort Dan Dean) for Inner City Records in 1981. Collier and Dean’s 2005 album, Duets on Origin Records, was nominated for “2005 Jazz Album of the Year” by Earshot Magazine. Other recordings include Illusion (1988, T.C. Records), Pacific Aire (1990, Nebula Records), and Mallet Jazz (2004, Origin Records). Collier & Dean released their third album, Sleek Buick, in August, 2014 on the Origin label featuring several significant jazz artists including saxophonists Ernie Watts and Gary Herbig, trumpeter Allen Vizzutti, pianist Don Grusin, and drummers Alex Acuña and Ted Poor. Sleek Buick received extensive national and international radio airplay spending 15 weeks on the JazzWeek Top 200 radio chart.

in 2014, Tom was awarded a Royalty Research Grant by the University of Washington to produce three new recordings in three different settings: (1) a solo vibes/marimba album Alone In The Studio, (Origin Records, April 2015), (2) a recording of original jazz compositions for quartet featuring guitarists Bill Frisell and Larry Coryell entitled Across The Bridge (Origin Records, November 2015), and (3) an experimental free improvisation trio album, Impulsive Illuminations (Origin Records, April 2016), featuring trumpeter Cuong Vu, trombonist Stuart Dempster, drummer Ted Poor, clarinetist William O. Smith, and pianist Richard Karpen.

In the classical arena, Collier has appeared as guest soloist with the Seattle Symphony, The Denver Symphony, The Bellevue Philharmonic, The Northwest Chamber Orchestra, The Everett Symphony and The Olympia Symphony. He was timpanist with the Northwest Chamber Orchestra, 1972-73, timpanist in the Los Angeles Repertoire Orchestra in 1976, and percussionist in the L.A. Contempo Four, 1975-77 (a modern music ensemble). As a solo artist, Tom has released two classical recordings on the Origin Classical label; Mallet Fantastique (2010), featuring new original compositions for marimba and/or vibraphone, and Tom Collier Plays Haydn, Mozart, Telemann, and Others (2012), a recording of duets primarily for two violins rearranged for marimba and vibraphone, both instruments played by Collier through the process of overdubbing.

Collier has also recorded several educational albums for Music Minus One and Studio 4 Music and has presented over 300 jazz concerts in public schools around Washington State for the Arts In Education Program of the state Arts Commission. In 1980, Collier was presented with an “Outstanding Service To Jazz Education” award by the National Association of Jazz Educators, and over the past thirty years, he has won 23 ASCAP Popular Panel Awards for his various jazz and percussion compositions.

Tom was Director of Percussion Studies at the University of Washington School of Music from 1980- 2016 and held the title of Professor of Percussion and Jazz Studies. He twice served as Chair of Jazz Studies at the school in 2001-2003 and again 2011-2012. In 2011, the prestigious Adelaide D. Currie Cole Endowed Professorship in the School of Music was awarded to Collier for the academic years 2011-2014. After his retirement, Tom was honored in by the University in 2016 with a new title, Professor Emeritus of Percussion and Jazz Studies. Additionally, he was voted into his high school’s “Hall Of Fame” by the West Seattle High School Alumni Association in 2015.