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ROMAIN COLLIN

Tiny Lights …

XM RECORDS / REVIVE MUSIC GROUP 3349361832 [43:56 ]

  1. Overflow

  2. There Will Be Blood

  3. Follow

  4. Dark Matter

  5. Gold

  6. Los Angeles

  7. Tiny Lights That Move And Speak

  8. Reprise

  9. Red / Snow

  10. Repeat And Fade

    Romain Collin - Piano, Moog Taurus bass synthesizer, vocal effects

    Matthew Stevens - Electric guitar

    Obed Calvaire - Acoustic drums, electronic drums

    Kazuma Jinnouchi - String arrangements (tracks 4, 10)

    The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra (tracks 4, 10)

    I recall being mightily impressed by Romain Collin's previous album when I reviewed it, back in 2016. The disc in question, Press Enter (ACT) was his third as a leader. We've had to wait a little while for number four of that ilk but patience is certainly rewarded with this new release. Romain is a French-born pianist, composer and arranger who these days resides in New York City. He is an alumni of the Berklee College of Music in Boston as well as of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. This new project, Tiny Lights..., represents a further development in his musical odyssey. The theme is that of a mystical journey wherein a boy moves into maturity, becoming a leader and visionary through a diverse range of experiences, before finally achieving the transcendence he seeks. The constant mantra throughout is 'Tiny Lights and his personal truth are all he has'. 'Tiny Lights...' are effectively the inner resources available to each one of us. We are, then, in the realm of an existential quest vividly expressed through musical and sonic exploration. All the tracks are composed and arranged by Collin.

    The composer himself plays piano, Moog Taurus and bass synthesizer on the disc, as well as contributing vocal effects. Electric guitarist Matthew Stevens is another Berklee graduate who, though Canadian-born, lives in Harlem, New York City. He has been involved in musical collaborations with Christian Scott, Terri Lyne Carrington and Esperanza Spalding, for example. For a couple of years running, he has been placed in the Downbeat Magazine Annual Critics Poll as a Rising Star in the Guitar category. Drummer Obed Calvaire, meanwhile, like Stevens in his mid-to-late thirties, has recently been part of the Dave Holland Trio and recorded with the SF (San Francisco) Jazz Collective. On two tracks of this recording, the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra also feature with string arrangements provided by the Japanese composer, Kazuma Jinnouchi, known for his work on film and video game soundtracks. The album is being released in three stages over a six week period of the spring and early summer of 2019 with live video and music video accompaniments.

    The overall effect is consistently impressive. Dark Matter and Los Angeles are standout tracks. Dark Matter develops the pensive theme in an imaginative way, with the added benefit of strong orchestral support. It seeks to reflect 'the dark side' of human nature. Los Angeles is catchy and engaging with sublime piano from Collin. The rest of the music isn't far behind for quality. The opener, Overflow, sees this stylish, energetic trio producing music of a lucid simplicity. There Will Be Blood takes inspiration from the film of that name and has a distinctive, hypnotic drive with ominous undercurrents. Follow is both surging and powerful, the kind of exciting music which invites a live audience. Gold is atmospheric, flowing and all too brief. Collin is on masterly form here. The title track, Tiny Lights That Move And Speak, is marked by urgency and thrust. Reprise is brief but resonant. Red/Snow is another sweeping composition while Repeat And Fade has a gentle, meditative charm of its own, enhanced by background strings.

    In my review of an earlier Romain Collin album, Press Enter, referred to above, I wrote of the memories Collin's work evoked of EST, the trio led by the late Esbjörn Svensson. That comparison is even more apt on this new disc. There is the same appetite for soundscapes and experiment and the same capacity to create infectious grooves. Some listeners may be resistant to the way this project is described in the liner notes. I doubt whether many will feel that way about the stimulating music which has resulted.

    James Poore

 


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