Colosseum is a pioneering British progressive jazz-rock band, mixing progressive rock and jazz-based improvisation
The band was formed in September 1968 by drummer Jon Hiseman, tenor sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith and bass player Tony Reeves, who had previously worked together in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers on the Bare Wires album. Dave Greenslade, on organ, was immediately recruited, and the line-up was completed by Jim Roche on guitar, although Roche only recorded one track before being replaced by James Litherland, (guitar and vocals). Hiseman and Heckstall-Smith had also previously played in Graham Bond's band, and Colosseum utilised several of the songs from that period.
The band made their live debut in Newcastle and were promptly recorded by influential BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel for his Top Gear Radio program. This appearance gained them valuable exposure and critical acclaim.
Their first album, Those Who Are About To Die Salute You, which opened with the Bond composition "Walkin' in the Park", was released by the Fontana label in 1969, and in March the same year they played at the Supershow, a recorded two-day jam session, along with Modern Jazz Quartet, Led Zeppelin, Jack Bruce, Roland Kirk Quartet, Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills, and Juicy Lucy. Colosseum's second album, also in 1969, was Valentyne Suite, notable as the first release from Vertigo Records, a branch of Philips Records established to sign and develop artists that did not fit the main Philips brand, and the first label to sign heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath.
For the third album, The Grass Is Greener, released only in the United States in 1970, Dave "Clem" Clempson replaced James Litherland. Louis Cennamo then replaced Tony Reeves on bass, but was replaced by Mark Clarke within a month, and Hiseman recruited vocalist Chris Farlowe to enable Clempson to concentrate on guitar. This lineup had already partly recorded the 1970 album Daughter of Time.
In March 1971, the band recorded its concerts at the Big Apple Club in Brighton and at Manchester University. Hiseman was impressed with the atmosphere at the Manchester show, and the band returned five days later for a free concert that was also recorded. The recordings were released as a live double album Colosseum Live in 1971, shortly before the original band broke up. Tracks recorded at Bristol University's Student Union were also used on the live album.
Interim and reunion in 1994
After the band split, Jon Hiseman formed Tempest with bassist Mark Clarke. Dave Greenslade formed Greenslade with Tony Reeves; Clem Clempson joined Humble Pie; Chris Farlowe joined Atomic Rooster; and Dick Heckstall-Smith embarked on a solo career.
Hiseman reformed the group as Colosseum II in 1975, with a stronger orientation towards jazz-fusion rock and a new lineup, featuring guitarist Gary Moore, and Don Airey on keyboards. They released three albums before disbanding in 1978.
Colosseum reunited in June 1994 and played the Freiburg Zelt Musik Festival and followed it up with a TV Special in October, which was recorded and later released as a CD and a DVD. Several new studio releases also followed, as did expanded editions of Valentyne Suite and Colosseum Live,and several compilation sets of earlier work.
Hiseman's wife, saxophonist Barbara Thompson, joined the band on various occasions before the 2004 death of Dick Heckstall-Smith and is now a permanent member of the band. Colosseum continues to record and, from time to time, tour mainly the German speaking territories.
In October 2010, Jon Hiseman's biography, "Playing the Band - The Musical Life of Jon Hiseman", was published.
Original band members:
Jon Hiseman – Drums (founder)
Dick Heckstall-Smith – Saxophones (founder member, died 2004, replaced by Thompson)
Tony Reeves – Bass (founder member, replaced by Cennamo) (born Anthony Reeves, 18 April 1943, in Lee Green, South East London)
Dave Greenslade – Organ, Vocals (from 1968)
Jim Roche – Guitar (first line-up, only one track on the first album (replaced by Litherland)
James Litherland – Guitar, Vocals (replaced by Clempson)
Louis Cennamo – Bass (June 1970, replaced by Clarke during the recording of Daughter of Time)
Later band members who are still involved:
Chris Farlowe – Vocals (from 1970)
Mark Clarke – Bass, Vocals (from 1970)
Dave "Clem" Clempson – Guitar, Vocals (from late 1969)
Barbara Thompson – Saxophones (from 2004)
Those Who Are About to Die Salute You – (1969)
Valentyne Suite – (1969)
The Grass Is Greener – (1970) [U.S. release only]
Daughter of Time – (1970)
Colosseum Live – (1971)
original band disbanded 1971 and reunited in 1994
LiveS The Reunion Concerts 1994 – (1995)
Bread & Circuses – (1997)
Tomorrow's Blues – (2003)
Live Cologne 1994 – (2003)
Live05 – (2007)
The Collectors Colosseum – (1971)
Anthology – (2000) (2-CD collection)
Morituri Te Salutant – (2009) (4-CD collection)
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