Jacob Collier is not your average English Twenty Four year old. He is a singer, arranger, composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. The London bred artist released his debut album In My Room in 2016, which led to a 200 date global tour and won him two Grammy Awards, and being dubbed “Jazz’s new messiah”. Managed by none other than Quincy Jones, Collier has spent the whole of 2018 writing, producing and engineering a four volume and forty song new project titled Djesse. The first volume is being released on December 7th and features some of Collier’s musical inspirations.
The first instalment comprises of nine tracks and I will admit that while listening to the opening song “Home Is” I was skeptical of what Collier would deliver on the rest of the album. It is very slow and drawn out five minute piece, delivered in an operatic style, though it does draws you in by the end of it, just as you are waiting for the song to build. Strangely enough the second song, titled “Overture”, is very much the opposite and personally I believe he should have started with it. To put simply it is like Christmas and Disney mixed together with an overall Hans Zimmer sound. Incidentally Collier has actually collaborated with Zimmer. Quick, exciting joy filled bursts and crescendos with orchestral instruments make for a fun piece.
“With The Love In My Heart” has to be one of the most complex songs I think I have ever listened to. Collier’s style fuses elements of jazz, a cappella, groove, folk, electronic music, electronic, gospel and soul, and in the nearly seven minute song he combines nearly all of these genres. Quick lyrics to start, along with drums, bass guitar and keyboard, before it breaks into a heavy beat and percussive section that makes you want to stomp around and clap. The cuts to different styles like funk with a really ripping electronic sound are so impressive. My only criticism would be that the song is so different, yet all the layers and changes work, except in the last minute it takes a turn slowing down. The quiet singing and simple piano notes, in an attempt to fade the song out just seem like they don’t fit, losing all the momentum this monumental track had. This being said it is a stand out and probably my favourite of all the tracks.
Continuing this push and pull of songs as you make your way through the album, “Ocean Wide, Canyon Deep” adopts the maxim ‘less is more’. Featuring vocals from Laura Mvula, and the Metropole Orkest conducted by Jules Buckley, it is truly a beautiful song. Adding layers before Mvula’s voice with the melodies to create a mood. It’s so cohesive and expressing true emotions which really lets the music create art.
Moving on to the title track “Djesse”. It has a strong marching band sound, but with real focus on lyrics and harmonies. Whilst “Everlasting Motion”, featuring Moroccan musical artist Hamid El Kasri, is a very percussive piece and full of passion, with his vocal somehow deep yet light. Listening to “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, it took me a second to realise it was the 1981 hit by The Police. Echoing again his inspiration with that Hans Zimmer sound, it is like a perfect score for an animated movie with all the brass and woodwind instruments accompanying and building the song.
Suzie Collier is a music teacher, violinist, conductor at the Royal Academy of Music in London, and maybe most importantly Jacob Collier’s mother. His whole family’s musical background had a huge influence on his upbringing and involvement with music. Taking full advantage of being able to create and perform with his mother just as he has his whole life, “Once You” was born. It is nine minutes of pure classical perfection, and a very romantic song with lyrics of love.
Once again I was taken by surprise, with Collier covering “All Night Long” the 1983 pop hit by Lionel Richie. Including his favourite jazz gospel, a capella group Take 6, he provides a groovier laid back version with lots of percussive fun, before breaking into an instrumental with piano scales and then what seems like improvised singing added at the end.
Vol 1. was truly a ride of emotions, instruments and styles all wrapped up in the weird workings of Jacob Collier’s somewhat syncopated world. This is an album that is breaking barriers and will be spoken about for years to come in my opinion. It deserves recognition and we should all be ready for what he brings in the coming parts.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Jacob Colliers’s Djesse Vol 1. will be available December 7th. He will be touring the US and Europe in 2019 so to keep up to date and check out his official website HERE.