Phil Collins makes it clear that while he was inspired by Buddy Rich to put together a big jazz band and play drums, he is not equatinghimself with that great drummer."I was exposed to the sound of the Buddy Rich Band in 1966," Collins recalled. "It was a live album from Las Vegas. It had a West Side Story medley. I just fell in love with that whole sound-- the idea of a drummer pushing the band along like that." After he heard the record, "I went out and tried to find as much as I couldof his stuff," Collins said. "On the way, I discovered Count Basie. I wasyet to join Genesis. I was in a blues band."
Collins met Rich in 1986. "He asked me to produce a big band album for him. I was going to do it. A year later he died."
Ten years later, he took singer Tony Bennett and a 20-piece big band on a tour of Europe. The tour came about because the Montreux JazzFestival, near where Collins lives in Switzerland, offered him one night todo whatever he wanted. "That pushed me to say to myself, 'Stop talkingabout it. Let's do it.' It led to me getting a band together at last and led to us doing the tour.
"Things come to you in your life. You say, 'Do I get scared and back away from this or see if I can have a go?' I had to invent my own phoneticnotation. I don't read music. I play by ear." Last year, Collins toured with a big band throughout North America andEurope.
"I'm going to be doing this on and off for the rest of my life," he said.
A Hot Night in Paris, released by Atlantic in August, is from shows recorded in Europe, mainly Paris. Included on the album are songs fromGenesis and Collins' solo CDs, plus Pick Up the Pieces from the AverageWhite Band and Milestones by Miles Davis.
"I had to learn an awful lot. That was part of the enjoyable challenge of it. Playing with brushes was a first. You play with much more dynamics ina big band than you do in rock 'n' roll. Sometimes you have to be so quiet.Other times you have to be shouting."
Collins said he practised harder before going out the second time, trying to make what he had thought was a light touch still lighter.
He plans to tour with a big band next summer. "My music director, trumpeter Harry Kim, comes out on tours. He has got a good sense of who'sthe right arranger for each song. On the new album, we've got arrangementsby Sammy Nestico, who used to arrange for Basie, and John Clayton Jr.,another well-known jazz arranger."
Choosing songs is "sort of hit or miss," Collins said.
"You take a song you think will lend itself to a big band arrangement. For some reason it doesn't quite live up to expectations. Sometimes it goes into the area the music has to avoid at all costs --elevator music. Usually the arranger will say, 'This isn't going to be whatyou want.' We don't go through the expensive exercise of arrangingsomething that's not going to make it."
Collins admits he should be thinking about composing.
"I did a couple of tunes for big band we've got in the book. There's a lot of room for improvement," he said. "Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Basie hadto find a voice that was original and suited them. It takes a bit of time to find your own individual style. You don't want to be derivative."
© Jam! Music, by Mary Campbell