Born in Detroit, Michigan, Chris Collins is a professional jazz woodwind player who has toured throughout Japan, South Africa, Europe and North America as the leader of his own ensembles and as a featured soloist. Cited as holding a singular place in the jazz scene of Detroit, he is Professor and Director of Jazz Studies and, as of 2017, the Valade Jazz Chair at Detroit’s Wayne State University. Alums of Wayne State University include Joe Henderson, Kenny Burrell, Pepper Adams, Yusef Lateef, Donald Byrd, Rick Margitza, and many others.
Collins began playing clarinet and saxophone at age ten, falling in love with the freedom, discipline, beauty, and camaraderie embedded in jazz and the Detroit jazz legacy.
As the President and Artistic Director of the Detroit Jazz Festival, the largest free jazz festival in the world, Collins has focused on creating unique international and regional programming, powerful educational initiatives, long-term financial stability, creative technology, and a joyous festival environment that welcomes the world and exports the Detroit vibe. His leadership has broadened the outreach of this art form while maintaining the highest standards of artistic excellence and celebrating the communicative nature and jubilant character of true jazz.
Collins has performed at jazz festivals such as those held in Cork, Ireland; Montreux-Switzerland; Panama; Pori; Nice; North Sea; and Glasgow. He has won numerous awards, and in 2011 was the first American to receive the Brusoni Award.
His most recent CD release, “Detours Detroit for Clarinet and Harp Quartet” blends classical and jazz elements. His “Electro-Monk, Acoustic-Funk” fuses techno and acoustic jazz with stunning originality. His successful “Jazz from the Shamrock Shore” (Harriett Jazz/ASCAP) features extended compositions which artistically combine the instrumentation, musical vocabulary and repertoire of the Irish folk tradition with American Jazz.
In addition to his work on commercial recordings and film soundtracks, including the soundtrack for the award-winning Paramount Pictures release "The Big Night,” and television series Leverage and The Librarian, Collins’ jazz solo work can be heard on the CD “A Hot Night In Paris,” “The Phil Collins Big Band” (Atlantic), and numerous jazz releases. Collins has performed with artists including Danilo Perez, Pistol Allen, Lou Rawls, Mel Torme, Marcus Belgrave, the Detroit Jazz All-Stars, Doc Severinsen, Matt Michaels, The Turin Philharmonic 900, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra
He has presented workshops and residencies around the world and at numerous national conferences on topics including jazz saxophone/improvisation, world-music influences, and distance jazz education.
"From the moment I put lips on my Backun clarinet, I was hooked! The instrument sings and sobs, mourns and dances, whispers and screams… all with a certain beauty that is alluring and intoxicating. The Backun's response, scale, and ergonomics deliver a confidence that allows me to be the best player, and most expressive artist, I can be."
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