Welcome to Jacob Collier 2.0. On Tuesday evening three hundred of his most doting fans squeezed into a room above a pub in Hackney for a glimpse of the future. Over the last four years Collier has grown from YouTube sensation to jazz superstar, scooping a pair of Grammy’s and the adoration of Quincy Jones along the way. Having pushed the one-man show beyond all conceivable limits, this was a tentative heralding of the new chapter in a more traditional direction: “I have a band, it seems,” announced Jacob Collier in charmingly understated fashion.
Collier has featured Rob Mullarkey on bass previously, but Pedro Martins on guitar and George ‘Spanky’ McCurdy on drums are new recruits. I’ll readily admit that my biggest concern before the gig was that we would miss out on those moments where Collier flies across the stage from the grand piano, flings himself at the drum stool, goes completely biscuits on the kit and magics a new time signature never previously heard on this planet. Thankfully extra musicians didn’t mean any limiting of choice and Collier gleefully ricocheted amongst the fifteen instruments shared between them with slightly less distance to travel but no less a sense of combusting urgency.
What did heighten was the spontaneity: track backing was both the magical core but occasional weakness of the one man show – it was the platform for wonder and creativity but sometimes limiting as a live experience. With a trio of musicians to co-ordinate Collier had opportunity and space to push further. When the groove gripped there was no reason to release it, and instead Collier could squeeze every possible chromatic tangent out of his harmoniser. In the process familiar favourites from In My Room were enriched with live backing vocals, gurning guitar solos and whole new levels of giddying groove.
We’ve just about run out of hyperbole to smother Collier with, but if he insists on this relentless star-bound trajectory then we’ll have to invest in a new thesaurus at Prickle HQ. His is a music that tugs at the heart and hips in equal measure, wrapped up in an irresistible galaxy of harmony and rhythm begging to be explored.