Perfect Sound Forever


Tribute by Gary Gomes
(August 2018)

Jon Hiseman is not a name that is usually recognized in the progressive, jazz or drumming communities in the United States. In fact, although he is internationally known, he is not a big "star" drummer like Bonham, Moon, Baker, Peart, Palmer, Bruford, Baker, Appice or any of the drummers that emerged in the 1960's to 1970's. This is especially shameful as Hiseman was a master technician who could drum circles around most of his contemporaries and was also called upon regularly as a session and jazz player.

Like Baker, who he replaced in the Graham Bond Organisation, he could play in a great many musical idioms and was also a band leader. In an odd twist, he also played with Georgie Fame (former home of Mitch Mitchell) and was one of the drummers seriously considered for the group that Keith Emerson and Greg Lake were forming. His resume in the 1960's is a who's who of top British bands, including subbing for the Crazy World of Arthur Brown (The Devil's Answer), John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Jack Bruce, and P.P. Arnold among others, often subbing for some of the top drummers of his day.

Hiseman's probably best known for his work in the original Colosseum, Colosseum 2 and Tempest. All bands included amazing musicians (including Dick Heckstall-Smith, Gary Moore, Alan Holdsworth and Ollie Halsall) but Hiseman always commanded attention and was the center of any band in which he played.

Hiseman's work with Graham Bond was exceptional- for proof, listen to Solid Bond, a two record collection which featured Bond in a jazz setting with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce and a second R&B album which featured Hiseman, showed massive playing skill on Hiseman's part in 1967 as well as his work on John Mayall's Bare Wires

However, Colosseum was a revelation. He was a lead drummer, like Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, Robert Wyatt (the only drummer I can think of who was in Hiseman's league). The work on "Valentyne Suite" and "The Kettle" (both 1969, from Valentyne Suite) show amazing dexterity and incredible command of the drum set as a method of conducting the band. Hiseman was similar to Billy Cobham and Carmine Appice in the way he approached solos as well--all out, no build up, just relentless drumming, building to peak after peak in his playing.

Interestingly enough, Hiseman's technical facility was evident from very early in his professional career with Bond and Fame. Recordings and videos from those bands show an already enormous technician who would play fills musically, with impeccable time keeping skills and an ability to move from rock to free jazz at a moment's notice.

Hiseman was featured on Jack Bruce's first solo album Things We Like, with Dick Heckstall-Smith and John McLaughlin, playing in a lighter jazz vein, and was also featured on Bruce's Songs for a Tailor, on which he shared drumming duties with John Marshall. He also played in several jazz-rock albums with Wolfgang Dauner, when some forms of jazz rock were looser and more experimental. After Tempest (which employed the great Alan Holdsworth as guitarist), Hiseman spent a lot of time in the late 1970's working on albums for Julian Weber, the rock adaption of Peter and the Wolf and also played for Andrew Lloyd Weber (employment I equate with Magma's Jannick Top once producing Celine Dion!).

Hiseman also worked as a producer for many years and in the late 1970's, early 1980's, he formed, with Albert Mangelsdorff and Wolfganf Dauner, the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble-a band of band leaders.

In the early 1990's, when interest in Progressive music started to resurface, he brought back Colosseum with the expanded line up that included Chris Farlowe and original guitarist Jim Roche and toured with them for years. His wife Barbara Smith replaced Dick Heckstall-Smith when the latter passed away. In recent years, he was still active and playing and was on a tour with a distinguished three piece band when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and quickly passed away on June 12, 2018.

It is difficult to understand why Hiseman is not recognised as one of the best drummers on the planet. Colosseum was an important group but perhaps he just appeared a few years too early, or stylistic changes made him less desirable. He was certainly in the class of the greatest rock drummers and I would even say one of the finest jazz drummers. His technique was outstanding--perhaps he was too relentless for listeners--but his acumen and skill were beyond question. Jon Hiseman is proof positive that the best musicians are often not the most noticed.

 RIP, Jon. You will be missed.

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