Max Collie
World Champion of Jazz

21/02/31 - 06/01/18

Photograph courtesy of

06/01/18 -

John Maxwell Collie was born in Melbourne, Australia on 21st February 1931. He first heard professional jazz in1946 listening to Graham Bellís lunchtime concerts at The New Theatre Melbourne. By 1948 he was playing with a local band and shortly after, leading it.

The famous Melbourne New Orleans Jazz Band were on tour in Europe and Max received a cable offering him the trombone chair, so in April 1962 Max arrived in England [to coincide with Beatlemania and the collapse of the British Trad scene] to tour Europe until that band went back to Australia a year later. Max decided to stay and joined the London City Stompers, becoming leader after a year, until February 1966, when he formed Max Collie's Rhythm Aces and that band, notwithstanding the collapse of the UK jazz scene, went on to become world famous. Max was simply a great band leader and got the best out of everyone, converting them to his unique sound. He knew that no group of artistes no matter how talented as individuals can bring forth the authentic New Orleans style if they canít work together day after day as his band did, as the last of the touring bands. He was able to get his highly professional and experienced musicians as though by magic to play the style and the way he wanted and achieve the level of musical perfection required.

In 1972 Sam Johnson, an avid jazz fan, whose stepfather had the longest running jazz radio show in history and whose uncle was President of the USA, started following the band. Sam Johnson became the American Tour Manager and with Martin Ross overall manager, led Max into a different world, first with a 25 days tour of the USA, then a 45 day tour, then a 66 day tour and finally an 84 day tour. All unheard of for a non US musician and the nationwide USA success of these 220 US appearances led to Max winning the World Championship of Jazz in Indianapolis against the cream of North American jazz bands. A total of 44 states were travelled by band wagon and most jazz festivals and clubs across the USA were played, along with many TV appearances and countless radio shows. Terrific publicity followed this success in the jazz world and tours of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Japan were added to the regular European itinerary. The Bands only ever Manager Martin Ross, persuaded Max that it was time to take advantage of his new found fame and do a Theatre Show called simply ďMax Collieís New Orleans Mardi GrasĒ, which although a vehicle for Max also included the legendary Ken Colyer and Cy Laurie and turned out to be the most successful jazz show in British jazz history performing approximately 700 shows across every major venue in Britain. Max had now played over 3500 major jazz festivals all over the world from Antibes to New Orleans itself, 1200 theatre concerts, countless jazz clubs and made 50 recordings many of which are now collectorís items, plus DVDís and 100ís of TV and Radio show appearances.

His secret was that not only was he a great band leader but he had also developed his own sound and had a marvellous dedication to his concept of this unique art form. No engagement was just another gig to Max. 100% effort went into every performance, which is why such a high standard was maintained over the years. Artistes who were members of the band from time to time are in themselves a history of British Jazz and include:-

Trumpets:- Chez Chesterman, Trevor Arnold, John Keen, Phil Mason, Denny Ilett, Ken Colyer.
Clarinets:-Roy Pellett , Karl Hird, Jumping Jack Gilbert, Trevor Whiting, Paul Harrison, Cy Laurie, Jerry Senfluk, Jonny Boston, Tony Pyke, Steve Mellor, Gabe Essien
Banjo:-Jim Cox, Eddy Edwards, Gentlemen Jim McIntosh, Jim Wright, John Cherry, Chris Marney, David Bashford, George Walker, Dickie White.
Bass:-Annie Hawkins, John Healy, Trefor Williams, Count John McCormick, Andy Laurence.
Drums:-Tony Scriven, Phil Franklin, Ron McKay, Pete Cotterill, Robert Cotterill, Emile Martyn, Alan (Slim) Poston, Baby Jules, John Petters.
Piano:-T J Johnson, Lord Arsenal.
Vocalists:-Jan Sutherland, T J Johnson, Christine Tyrrell, Claire Solomon, Marilyn Middleton Pollock, Pauline Pearce.
Roadies: Pete Marr, Syd Appleton and Andy Firth
Deputy trombonists: Gentleman Jim McIntosh (who also played Banjo) and Mike Poynton.
Worldwide Manager:- Martin K Ross ;USA Tour Agent/manager:- Samuel S. H. Johnson.

Martin Ross

10/01/18 -

Max Collie

I think it must have been 1996 or 7 that I first met Max Collie, who died on 6th January. We were living in the north of the Netherlands, and Count John McCormick, Max's regular bass-player at that time, had telephoned to say that they would be playing in Delfzijl, not far away. I hadn't seen John since leaving Liverpool in 1991; so off I went for a reunion with him, and during the interval he introduced me to 'Mad Max' (as he called him). So began a friendship that would last for more than twenty years.

A few weeks later, I received a telephone call from Max himself, inviting me to join the band for a three-day tour in Germany - my audition as it turned out. Before the first gig, I was badly led astray by trumpeter Denny Ilett and banjo-player Dave Bashford. We had arrived at our hotel shortly after midday and, having travelled through the night, were supposed to sleep during the afternoon in readiness for the evening gig, but these two insisted that we three should have 'just the one' in the hotel bar before retiring. 'Just the one' quickly became a sort of refrain; we lost track of the time, and suddenly Max appeared, refreshed and resplendent in his band uniform and horrified by the sight of us, clearly the worse for wear and by no means ready to set off for the gig. 'That's it,' I thought; 'I've blown it!'

But I hadn't. In my experience, Max was never one to bear grudges, and from then onwards I joined his band for an average of half-a-dozen such weekends per year. That number increased when we returned to Britain in 2006, and I was included in some of the gigs on this side of the channel as well. He was an effective tailgate trombonist, firmly in the New Orleans tradition, but his great gift was as a band leader. He was unfailingly (and often undeservedly) loyal to his musicians; he was an instinctive judge of what would please an audience, but above all he was the inspiration behind some of the most exciting arrangements of jazz classics that I have been privileged to play. I shall always remember him with gratitude and affection.

The Revd. Allan Wilcox
Ty'n y Ffynnon,
Nant Peris,
Gwynedd LL55 4UH
Wales, UK

14/01/18 -

I 'm also sad to hear of Max Collie's passing. I was privileged to play in Max's band on a number of occasions , depping for Ron McKay and later for Pete Cotterill, both of them fine drummers. Max was a great band-leader with a strong character, good New Orleans style trombone , and an excellent vocalist. This tribute to Max features an excellent photo of him and contains a very full and informative resume of Max's exciting and varied career. Thank you Max for all those wonderful memories. -

Dave Berry.

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