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Early Years

Colosseum, one of the first bands to fuse jazz, rock and blues, were formed in early 1968 by drummer Jon Hiseman with tenor sax player Dick Heckstall-SmithTheir first album, Those Who Are About to Die Salute You, which opened with the Graham Bond composition "Walkin' in the Park", was released by the Philips' Fontana label in early 1969. In March the same year they were invited to take part in Supershow, a two-day filmed jam session, along with Modern Jazz QuartetLed ZeppelinJack BruceRoland Kirk QuartetEric ClaptonStephen Stills, and Juicy Lucy.

Colosseum's second album, later in 1969, was Valentyne Suite, notable as the first release on Philip's newly launched Vertigo label, established to sign and develop artists that did not fit the main Philips' brand.

For the third album, The Grass Is Greener, released only in the United States in 1970, Dave "Clem" Clempson replaced James Litherland. Louis Cennamo then briefly replaced Tony Reeves on bass, but was replaced in turn by Mark Clarke within a month. Then Hiseman recruited vocalist Chris Farlowe to enable Clempson to concentrate on guitar. This lineup had already partly recorded the 1970 album Daughter of Time.

In March 1971, the band recorded concerts at the Big Apple Club in Brighton and at Manchester University. Hiseman was impressed with the atmosphere at the Manchester show, and the band returned five days later for a free concert that was also recorded. The recordings were released as a live double album Colosseum Live in 1971. In October 1971 the original band broke up.

The more time that passed from the day in November 1971 that Jazz-rock pioneers Colosseum split up, the less likely it seemed that they would ever work together again.

Great interest in the re-mastered CD releases of their original albums helped persuade drummer Hiseman to give the nod for the return of Colosseum.


Colosseum reunited on 24 June 1994 at the Freiburg Zelt Musik Festival, with the same line-up as when they broke up in 1971. Following this one off sold out festival they embarked on a 60-date 1995 European tour and released another live CD and DVD (“Colosseum LiveS -The Reunion Concerts 1994”) featuring all the Colosseum favourites, all executed in a manner which showed they had lost none of their fire and energy.

More than 30 years down the line, Jon Hiseman, Chris Farlowe, Clem Clempson, Dave Greenslade and Mark Clarke were still going strong. Tragically, Saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith succumbed to an 18 month long battle with ill heath and died at the end of 2004. Jon’s long time wife and internationally-renowned saxophonist Barbara Thompson stepped into his shoes through his long ordeal and became a permanent member.


The band’s break-up in 1971 meant their final release had been a live album which was rated as one of their finest offerings – and it is perhaps fitting that they should have kicked off the return of Colosseum with another live effort.

Second reunion

Colosseum reunited again after the death of Jon Hiseman to play selected shows in 2020. The line-up is Chris Farlowe, Clem Clempson and Mark Clarke, joined by Kim Nishikawara (sax), Nick Steed (keys, organ) and Malcolm Mortimore (drums) This line-up started touring on 29 August in Hamburg at Landhaus Walter and continued in the UK. Tours of Germany, Austria and Hungary followed in 2021 and 2022. On April 15 2022, they released their new studio album, Restoration with subsequent festival dates in Italy, Germany and Finland. Sadly in this year Barbara Thompson also died. 2023 saw the band at summer festivals in Germany and tour dates in the U.K. as well as a European tour in the autumn.

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