Listening to Rudresh Mahanthappa talking with Josh Jackson on the April 17th edition of "The Checkout" ( do listen here), a lightbulb went off in the (fairly) dim recesses of my brain. The alto saxophonist talked about the influence of "prog-rock" in the jazz of the 21st Century.
Moving on to "The Calling" (Palmetto Records), the fine new release (his second as a leader) from pianist/composer Romain Collin, I hear the influence of groups such as Radiohead, Rush, and other progressive bands on the rhythms created by drummer Kendrick Scott and certain chordal patterns of the pianist. Long melodic passages, shorter tracks without solos, the interaction of Collin with Scott and bassist Luques Curtis (like Dezron Douglas, a native of Hartford, CT) is more comparable to the model of The Bad Plus and the Brad Mehldau Trio than to the music of Bill Evans or, for that fact, McCoy Tyner. Collin has a melodic streak a mile wide and his use of "programmed" sounds feels natural, not forced. The sonic textures behind the rippling piano solo on "Greyshot" (created by guest Adrian Daurov, cello) are haunting and cinematic. Not that this music is all "sturm und drang" - try the tricky rhythms of "Pennywise The Clown". Yes, this is danceable, playful, music and the interaction of Collin and Scott is priceless (don't forget to pay attention to Curtis's solid contributions beneath his cohorts.) For me, Kendrick Scott is the perfect drummer for this music because he never settles for the tried-and-true. His percussive playfulness on the opening of "Airborne" gives the music its wings while his actions during the varying dynamic settings the pianist creates illustrate that he is a drummer who listens yet is proactive (not reactive.) Listen to him drive "Runner's High", pushing the pianist and bassist without cluttering the sound, creating billows of cymbal splashes - the intensity in this music is incredible, especially since, much of the time, it's not played at a high volume.
The CD closes with "One Last Try", a solo piece with the air of nocturne composed by Claude Debussy. Collin concentrates on the melody, never relying on excessive technical garnishes or overplaying. The music is emotionally satisfying and honest. There are other tracks that display a classical influence, an influence that is not heavy-handed or artificial.
Romain Collin, a native of France and graduate of the Berklee School of Music as well as the Thelonious Monk Institute, has created quite a fine program with "The Calling." Thanks to Kendrick Scott and Luques Curtis for helping to give his music wings, for pushing the pianist forward and framing his melodies in a manner that feels fresh and without cliche. Kudos also go to producer Matt Pierson who provided Collin with the freedom and guidance to cultivate his music.
To learn more about the pianist, go to
romaincollin.com. Also, check him out in conversation with Jason Crane - go to thejazzsession.com