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Jacob Collier – “Djesse Vol. 3”

Jacob Collier – Djesse Vol. 3
(Hajanga Records. CD review by John Bungey)

First a warning: if your musical life is saturated in Coleman’s harmolodics or Coltrane’s sheets of sound, best stop reading now. Jacob Collier may have been championed by Quincy Jones (“I’ve never seen anyone like Jacob”), shared a stage with Herbie Hancock and triumphed at the Jazz FM awards but, frankly,  it is hard to squeeze any of the 25-year-old’s output into the pigeonhole called jazz music.

Jacob Collier Djesse album coverOn Djesse Vol. 3 there is R&B, pop, dubstep, soul and funk (with the ghosts of Prince and Parliament often lurking), but Blue Note – or indeed blue notes – not here. Anyway, let’s not play the oldies’ game of getting hung up on genres; anyone who can snag their own BBC Prom aged 23 must be worth investigating.

This is the third of four planned volumes of a 50-song project featuring no less than two dozen artists and it’s a return to electronics after the woodier Vol. 2. The album once again shows off Collier’s remarkable production skills, and also his restless energy… some would say too restless. Collier’s busy R&B flavoured cut-ups can seem like music for the TikTok generation – as if the young Londoner is afraid that if he sticks to a rhythm for more than a minute listeners will flip channel. Take the opening tune: Count the People is a potentially great dance track that seems destined to build to a red-blooded climax – instead the tune keeps getting ambushed by hyperactive raps, then slashing guitar, even a manic banjo.

The impact of strong songs – Time Alone With You, All I Need, Butterflies – is hobbled by fussy production. There’s barely a backing vocal that Collier can’t resist speeding up Minnie Mouse-style or processing into a robo-choir. Happily, a series of female guest singers – Mahalia, Jessie Reyez – inject some needed soul and humanity.

You can’t doubt the talents of Collier, who was given his first recording software by his musician parents when he was aged seven. If he calms down a bit there may be great albums to come – or perhaps he should be lending his production skills to artists with more interesting tales to tell than his rather straightforward love stories – the Phil Spector of the Logic Pro age maybe (but without the firearms).

Djesse Vol. 3 is released on 14 August. Find out more on Jacob Collier’s website.

2 replies »

  1. He’s no doubt brilliant. But immature and juvenile in many of these tracks. I’ve been an advocate for previous albums and listened repeatedly to them. I’m not sure that’ll happen with this. No desire to take a second listen to any of the tracks. The beauty and depth of my favorite Collier track “Once You” is not present. The music is intriguing and calculated if overworked and painful to try to like. Sometime you just want something lovely. Someplace. Somewhere. It’s not here.

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  2. I may be one of a small minority but I fail to see what all the fuss and hype with Jacob Collier is about. I agree that he is a talented multi instrumentalist but to honest his ‘music’ leaves me cold. His electronic vocals put my teeth on edge. To me it seems like he try’s to mix half a dozen different songs/sounds into one track.

    I saw Jacob play at Jazz Voice a few years ago, along with around 10 or so friends, of which the majority had not heard of him before. He performed a couple of songs including a truly awful version of Danny Boy and when we left the venue many of my friends asked me who was the artist was and when I told them pretty much all of them said that they thought he was dreadful.

    Jazz has encompassed many forms over the years but where Jacob Collier’s input fits in to it I fail to see but each to their own.

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