Founded in 1992 by bassist Ben Allison and a group of like-minded cohorts, the Jazz Composers Collective is a musician-run nonprofit organization that supports the work of a wide variety of independent-minded players and composers. Since its inception, the Collective has worked to transcend the divisive politics that tend to dominate the recording industry and the New York club environment -- specifically, constrictive categories which pit the avant-garde "downtown" scene against the neo-traditionalist "uptown" scene. With remarkable success, the Collective has sought to deflate these labels and put the emphasis back on music in all its fluidity. At the same time, it has enabled its members to create, perform, and record their own music in a supportive, fulfilling environment.
While the Jazz Composers Collective claims well over 140 musicians as participants, it is centered around a core group of Composers In Residence: Allison, pianist Frank Kimbrough, trumpeter Ron Horton, and saxophonists Ted Nash and Michael Blake. On the Collective's advisory board are such notables as Andrew Hill, David Liebman, Joe Lovano, and Lee Konitz. Taking an historical cue from Arnold Schoenberg's Society for Private Musical Performances, the Collective has largely opted out of the New York club scene, hosting instead an annual concert series which stresses good acoustics and undivided attention from the audience. The Collective also publishes a newsletter, which gives composers the rare opportunity to share thoughts about their art. The Collective has produced over 80 concerts, featuring the works of 41 composers and the premieres of over 300 compositions. In addition to giving musicians exposure at the concerts, the Collective is committed to building new audiences for its music by supporting the recording and touring of its artists and special projects.
Recordings produced under the rubric of the Collective include: Third Eye and Medicine Wheel (Ben Allison & Medicine Wheel); Rhyme and Reason (Ted Nash Double Quartet); Genius Envy (Ron Horton); Kingdom of Champa (Michael Blake); Chant and Noumena (Frank Kimbrough); and both Love Is Proximity and Dr. Cyclops' Dream (Herbie Nichols Project).