Jay Collins is the saxophone player of choice for famous artists such as Gregg Allman, Little Feat, Levon Helm, The Midnight Ramble Band, and Donald Fagen. He is also an exciting singer, arranger, writer, and a dynamic band-leader.
Jay played on two Grammy-winning recordings with Levon Helm (Electric Dirt and Ramble at the Ryman), a platinum-selling DVD with the Allman Brothers Band (Live at the Beacon Theater), and was featured on horns and arrangements for two recordings with Gregg Allman (Back to Macon, GA  and Southern Blood ).
Whether fronting his own band, The Northern Resistance, on lead vocals and sax, blowing his horn at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock NY with the Midnight Ramble Band, or touring with the legendary group, Little Feat, Collins always delivers!
In an era where many learned to play music in a school, Jay is one of those rare musicians who learned to play the old-fashioned way: on the bandstand. Although known as a horn player and arranger, Jay’s singing and song-writing abilities are a pleasant surprise to music lovers!
His granite pipes prompted Time Out NY to note that, “His soulful ‘croak’ definitely deserves to be heard!” and Blues Revue said, “Jay Collins plays a hot saxophone, but he covers a lot more ground than that….” Hittin’ the Note Magazine stated, “Rivers, Blues, and Other People makes a resounding case for Collins the singer, songwriter, and bandleader.”
After cutting his teeth as a teen-ager in Portland, Oregon in the late 80’s and early 90’s on gigs with the luminaries of Portland’s burgeoning Jazz scene (like the late bassist LeRoy Vinnegar), Jay Collins made the move to New York City and quickly became a force to be reckoned with. His focus was hard-hitting instrumental Jazz, as documented on his first three albums as a leader: Uncommon Threads (Reservoir Music), Reality Tonic (Reservoir Music) and Cross Culture (Blues Leaf). Along the way, Jay gained diversified experience as a sideman with some of New York City’s best jazz people, including pianists Andrew Hill, Jacky Terrasson, and Afro-Cuban drummer and clinician, Bobby Sanabria, among many others. Jay also played Blues gigs at all the clubs up and down famed Bleeker St in the West Village, Latin and Funk gigs in the gritty bars of the Lower East Side, and even played on occasion with street bands for tips!
“This robust tenor saxophonist is a great example of a player whose varied experiences nurture a deeper musical personality.” – Village Voice, NYC
In time, while remaining dedicated to playing his horns, Jay began to branch out into songwriting and singing. A new touring gig starting in 2001 with Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band helped convince Jay to develop his singing voice further, and embrace a direction towards blues-based Rock. It was a natural move, for Jay had grown up playing along with his stepfather’s collection of records by Freddie King, Taj Mahal, Albert King and other blues legends. It was during this time he solidified his first real group, Jay Collins and the Kings County Band, and began playing local gigs where he would sing his original material and play saxophone, flute, and keyboard.
In 2004, Jay met vocalist Amy Helm and soon began regularly performing with her father, the great Levon Helm (of The Band) at his famous Midnight Ramble Sessions in Woodstock, NY. After relocating to Woodstock in 2006, Mr Collins earned a spot as one of the horn arrangers and soloists in Helm’s respected group. It was during this period (2007-2012) that Levon made a series of critically acclaimed albums that Jay played on, 2 of which won Grammy’s in the Americana category. He continues to perform with the Midnight Ramble Band at Helm’s Barn from time to time with Amy Helm and the many other talented musicians that show up.
Jay met Donald Fagen (of Steely Dan) in 2007 in Woodstock, and around 2010 began playing saxophone in a super-group that Mr Fagen put together which also featured Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs. The group contained many members of the Steely Dan band. They called it The Dukes of September.
“Playing with musicians of that caliber helped me rise to another level of musicianship…” – Jay Collins
In 2010 (released in 2012) Jay made a recording at Levon Helm Studios with his Kings County Band entitled, Blues, Rivers, and Other People, which featured Levon Helm on drums, Donald Fagen on piano, Scott Sharrard (Jay’s bandmate from the Gregg Allman group) on guitar, Larry Campbell on mandolin, and Bruce Katz on piano among many others.
“This record is a minor masterpiece, showing the best of what Woodstock is about in 2012….a master player, Collins makes music that has a latent Lowell George vibe….”– Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY)
The years from 2012-2016 were spent touring extensively with the Gregg Allman Band, playing on two recordings with Gregg, and writing more songs. During this time Jay consolidated a new band to sing his original material with a band called Jay Collins and the Northern Resistance. Composed of the finest young rock and roll players in NY’s Hudson Valley, their release, The John Brown EP, came out in the fall of 2016 and was recorded direct to tape at Waterfront Studios in Hudson, NY. For this recording Jay once again called on his band-mate from the Gregg Allman years, NYC guitarist Scott Sharrard, as well as the youthful sensation from Woodstock, guitarist and vocalist Connor Kennedy along with the rest of the Northern Resistance.
Soon after this, on some gigs in Jamaica with the Midnight Ramble Band, Jay became acquainted with the members of the legendary funk-rock group, Little Feat!
Starting around 2018, Jay, along with the Midnight Ramble Horns began touring and performing regularly with Little Feat, doing their 50th Anniversary Tour in 2019 and most recently, the Waiting for Columbus Tour of 2022.