Max Collie: his long and brilliant career

TWO Saturdays ago I was listening to John Smythe presenting the Victorian Jazz Club’s fine radio program, Jazz on a Saturday and was delighted to hear a track from Max Collie’s Rhythm Aces recorded at the Trafalgar Hotel, Chelsea (London that is) sometime around 1973.

So it was especially poignant to have news a few days later from Ron Knight in WA, and Diana Allen that Max has had a serious stroke and is in a very poor state requiring 24 hour care.

You can find out more details from the following website which is organising to sell the remaining stock of Collie CDs and DVDs as one way of helping to support Max and his family.
Appeal for Max Collie

Although Max has lived and worked overseas since 1962, he will be remembered by those of an age to have played with him or listened to him during his early jazz days in Melbourne where he was born on 21 February 1931.   He led the Jazz Bandits (1948-1950) and the Jazz Kings (1950-1962) which included some well known names in the Australian jazz firmament as you can see from the illustration below from The Oxford Companion to Australian Jazz by Bruce Johnson.

Max Collie’s Jazz Kings 1958
Graham Coyle, Lou Silbereisen, Roger Bell, Stewie Speer, Pixie Roberts, Max Collie

He had planned to take his band overseas in 1962 but arrangements fell through at the last minute. Providentially the Nick Polites’ Melbourne New Orleans Jazz Band which was touring England and other places was losing its trombone player Kevin Shannon who was returning to Australia, so Max accepted the invitation to take his place. He arrived England in April 1962.

When the Melbourne New Orleans Jazz Band left England in 1964, Max stayed behind, becoming a member of the London City Stompers. In 1966, he became the group’s leader and they were renamed Rhythm Aces. For the next 46 years the Max Collie Rhythm Aces have played all over the world, made many recordings and developed a following spanning almost as many decades as they have.

Here’s a sample of them playing in 1973. Swinging London has certainly changed their “look” since the days of the Jazz Kings in staid Melbourne!

In 1975 they won the first World Championship of Jazz in the US. Here’s a video: the camera work is shocking, but audio is OK.

Obviously over the years the personnel has changed, but the jazz style hasn’t. Here’s a video of the band playing at the Mülheim Jazz Club, Germany in February 2010. That’s Baby Jools on drums.

8 responses to “Max Collie: his long and brilliant career

  1. Hello Jazz Fans Of Max
    I am trying to research if Max is still on this “Jazz Earth” as my father has passed away July 2014. My father (Ian Craig) was a direct cousin of Max. We have been talking about the past / relatives as you do once your loved ones have gone and one story was about Dad growing up with Max and how he use to listen to Max practising on his trombone. There are /were many funny stories about Max. Any info would be much appreciated. As we lost contact with Max and have not heard from him for over 10 years.
    Kind Regards Linda

  2. I have just found a large poster in my back cupboard which says Jazz Night Max Collie Rhythm Aces Monday 19 June at 8 – Bandstand in King Georges Park Wandsworth S.W.18 – Festivals of London 1972. I remember they played a tune called ‘You Scream, I Scream’ and we sat on the grass. I’ve stuck it on walls in places I’ve lived until the orange didn’t suit the decor and haven’t investigated the band until today! I am pleased that they have played so well for so many years but and sorry that Max, obviously a great musician is so ill. I had better frame this poster properly now.

  3. Hello Max
    I am a big fan of you sinds the seventiens i am still lisening every day to your music i hope that you getting better soon
    all the best
    Jan
    the neterlands

  4. I knew and played trumpet with Max Collie in Melbourne in the late 1950s – early 1960s. (Max’s former wife, Jane, later married Cliff Tierney, modern/bop trumpeter, who could trade choruses with Clark Terry during Clark’s 1974 Australian Jazz Convention visit). Working in London in 1970, I stayed briefly with Max and Annie Hawkins in south London (Annie, bassist in Max’s band, played In Melbourne a few years ago). I do recall playing with Max at some gig in “The North”, with Max dropping me off at dawn from his van at High Barnet (or Cockfosters?), to catch a train back to my hospital job at Archway. Sadly, I did not catch up with Max again on later sojourns in the UK.
    I hear that the recent stroke has affected his vision.

  5. It is sad to hear that Max is so ill. He has led great bands over his career and is well liked all over Europe. I have seen many of his “Mardi Grass” concerts in the past. He has kept the jazz tradition going magnificently.

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