b. 18 April 1928, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, d. 8 March 1988, France. Of all the musicians involved in the British revivalist movement of the late 40s and early 50s, trumpeter Colyer was the only one to achieve the status of a jazz legend. He achieved this through a gritty determination to adhere to what he believed to be the true spirit of jazz. Colyer first demonstrated his obsession with the great traditions of New Orleans jazz in the early 50s. He joined the Merchant Navy in order to visit the USA, where he promptly jumped ship and headed for the Crescent City. In New Orleans he sat in with local grandmasters, including George Lewis and Emile Barnes, before the authorities caught up with him and he was deported. Before his visit to the USA, Colyer had already worked with the Crane River Jazz Band and the Christie Brothers Stompers, but his American exploits had made him a big name in the UK and he was invited to front the co-operative band formed a little earlier by Chris Barber and Monty Sunshine. Although this unit was working regularly and building a reputation, Barber and Sunshine felt that Colyer’s fame would be an asset. For a while this assumption proved correct, but personality clashes developed, particularly when Colyer appeared to lose sight of the fact that the band he was leading was not his own but was a collective venture.
From Encyclopedia of Popular Music in Oxford Reference.