REVIEW: Collier Cole Mullarkey (Jacob Collier, Louis Cole, Rob Mullarkey) at Pizza Express Dean Street

Jacob Collier soundchecking before the gig

Collier Cole Mullarkey
(Pizza Express Dean Street, 1st April 2015. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

In the past 3-4 years, there have been several glimpses of the scale of Jacob Collier's protean talent, on video and in performance. But, in my experience, this gig was the first occasion that has given quite such a comprehensive view of the many directions he is able to take it in the live situation. Pizza Express last night felt like a cauldron of creation and experimentation. The midnight gig had been set up just five days ago, but the place was completely packed with an enthusiastic young audience including many musicians.

The background is that this trio-plus-guests gig was spurred into existence by the presence in London of the Los Angeles duo Knower (Louis Cole and Genevieve Artadi). The key to its success was the successful combination of Collier and Louis Cole's musical worlds, which are not dissimilar. Collier's keybords and vocals - and keyboard vocals  -  and Cole's resourceful and hugely positive energetic drumming and electronics sparked off each other, with the experienced, anchoring presence of Rob Mullarkey's electric bass giving yet more vivacity, punch and drive.

Swirling vocal harmonies, a multi-voiced take on Eleanor Rigby, some updated echoes of Herbie Hancock's Rockit Man, electro-funk... the capacity of this trio to take itself to unexpected places kept an audience transfixed for an entire 90-minute set. (Confession: at the break at 1:30am, I gave in to my own limitations and left).

The trio also brought on guests : lead vocal Natalie Williams and backing vocal Brendan Reilly brought a huge intensity build to Williams' drum'n'bass- inspired System, and an almost ideal contrast of timbre and character to Collier's multi-voicings. Saxophonist Graeme Blevins also interacted with huge inventiveness in a musical context that had the unpredictability and switchbacks of a video game.

This was not an evening for anybody to be judging a finished product. This was a first white-heat live encounter, that situation in which musicians probe to discover each other's musical character, essence, potential for surprise. No re-takes, no regrets, no hiding places.

An exciting, happy, first gig for a twenty-first century "piano trio" (how quaintly old-fashioned that expression sounds!) of quite incredible potential.

Rob Mullarkey, Louis Cole

L-R Jacob Collier, Natalie Williams, Brendan Reilly, Rob Mullarkey

Jacob Collier and Graeme Blevins

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