About Colin Towns
b. 1949, London, England. A jazz performer with a distinguished history in pop and rock, Towns first rose to prominence in the late 70s as the keyboard player in heavy rock band Gillan. However, he became better known during this period for his contributions to television and film soundtracks, notably Full Circle (1977), The Dumb Waiter (1979) and The Rocking Horse Winner (1983), and when Gillan fell apart in 1983 Towns opted to devote himself to his new career. His commissions during the 80s and early 90s included the films Vampire’s Kiss and The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase (both 1989), and the television series The Fear (1988), Capital City (1989), Truckers and Nice Town (both 1992).
Towns always yearned to pursue the jazz music that had dominated his youth, and took his chance in 1993 with an album for Danny Thompson’s The Jazz Label, a double CD released through New Note/Vital Records. Towns was backed by his Mask Orchestra, an ensemble that included some of the UK’s foremost modern jazz exponents, including saxophonists Peter King and John Surman and trumpeter Guy Barker. Afterwards there was a lull in the artist’s performing career, until the announcement of a six-date UK tour in early 1995. Following the rave reviews that attended a pre-tour warm-up set at London’s Purcell Room in February, Towns’ debut was reissued to coincide with the dates. Music from the UK television series The Buccaneers was released by Mercury Records shortly thereafter. Other commissions during this period included the UK television series Pie In The Sky, Cadfael, The Crow Road, Our Friends In The North and Noah’s Ark, and the feature films The Puppet Masters (1994), Space Truckers (1996) and Guest House Paradiso (1999).
Plans for a second jazz album were built around a piece entitled ‘Short Stories’, premiered at Towns’ Purcell Room concert. Performers in the Mask Orchestra on Nowhere & Heaven included Mara Pia De Vito (vocals), Henry Lowther (trumpet) and Alan Skidmore (saxophone), in addition to the returning Barker and King. Towns also set up the highly respected Provocateur label, releasing recordings by Andy Sheppard, Mike Gibbs, John Parricelli, Maria Pia De Vito, and his own outings with the Mask Orchestra, Mask Quintet and Mask Symphonic. He has also collaborated extensively with the NDR Big Band from Hamburg, Germany.