So, I found this musical phenom on YouTube a little while ago. The 22-year-old jazz composer and multi-instrumentalist, originally from London, shot to fame as a music-making teenager on YouTube. Then, he got the attention of Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock. Many music experts have called him a prodigy or even a genius. These adjectives about Collier are not unwarranted. His music holds a particular appeal for jazz aficionados, who hear his brilliance in the technical minutiae.
Collier possesses immense talent. His soulful baritone contradicts his slight frame and youthful age. On his debut CD, In My Room, he employs a myriad of layers of vocal harmonies and instrumentation, each intricately arranged into place. Ideas stack on top of ideas, multitudes of melodies intertwined, the twists, turns and modulations are all carefully calculated and backed up by an unfathomable understanding of music theory. I’ve never heard anything “homemade” that approaches this level of production! In My Room exudes the allure of a record lovingly pieced together by one man over countless hours…in his room.
All of the songs are great ideas with intelligent and thoughtful key concepts, but Collier, being a composer, singer, instrumentalist, and producer of great ability. Collier’s use of reharmonization, particularly with regards to the multi-track vocals, provide a constant sense of motion that is somewhat reminiscent of the piano playing of the late John Taylor.
Woke Up Today, opens the album, epitomizing the hyper-eclectic sound of Collier and his music, with a raggedy-funk rhythm consisting of miscellaneous sounds sampled into virtual percussion instruments, with Collier creating his vocal chorus.
The Beach Boys’ In My Room is a little on the nose, so it had to be included in this album. It’s a unique version with the densely layered vocals, and various percussion sounds, more so than even a Beach Boys record.
Along the same lyrical lines is Hideaway, done with a sparse but atmospheric instrumental backup including some acoustic guitar.
Sounding a bit like a more standard jazz ballad with outstanding vocal arranging is Collier’s arrangement of a tune by one of his biggest influences- Stevie Wonder, You and I.
However, the Stevie Wonder influence really comes to the forefront on an original called Saviour (British spelling, remember Jacob is from the UK). A mixture of vocal acrobatics with grooves constructed with combinations of unconventional sounds.
One of the most musically interesting pieces on the album is an original called Hajanga, in which Collier says he wanted to convey the effect of spinning in circles.
The most straight-out fun track on the album and also one of the most impressive is one of the covers. Collier does an amazing mostly a cappella version of the theme from The Flintstones. In the middle of the tune, Collier throws in a solo on a melodica, a kind of keyboard harmonica.
With all the layered vocal parts that dominate this album, Collier does a very attractive ballad called In The Real Early Morning, which is mainly just keyboard and his solo vocal.
There are a lot of musicians out there plying their trade, many of them very good, some of them innovative. And then there are those who are one of a kind, seeming to emerge fully formed at a young age. We have such a rare bird this week. It’s Jacob Collier’s In My Room is a wild mix of multiple layered vocals and jazz influence along the lines of Bobby McFerrin, the funk of Stevie Wonder and a quirky collection of instrumentation, which manifests itself as must listen to album.