Jacob Collier will blow your mind at the Jazz Aspen’s JAS Cafe
If You Go …
Who: Jacob Collier
Where: JAS Café at the Aspen Art Museum
When: Sunday, Aug. 20, 7 & 9:15 p.m.
Jacob Collier has been compared with Mozart and been dubbed a genius by just about everyone who has seen him perform. The once-in-a-generation talent led Quincy Jones to take him under his wing and proclaim: “I have never seen a talent like this.”
The North Londoner, who turned 23 this month, will close out the JAS Café summer season with two Sunday night shows at the Aspen Art Museum.
Collier broke out as a teen YouTube star, making wildly inventive covers — his split-screen video take on Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t Worry ’Bout a Thing” has garnered more than 2.3 million views — on which he plays several instruments and loops his vocals into intricate harmonies.
His live shows were no less of a revelation, with Collier hopping from piano to vocals to electric and double bass to synthesizer, drums and percussion to mandolin, accordion, autoharp and back again. In this creative tornado, he builds one-man symphonies piece by piece (often combined with a live video projection behind him, though he’s forgoing that aspect for his intimate Aspen shows).
Last year, Collier released his first proper album, “In My Room,” which became a global hit, went on to the top of the jazz charts and won him his first two Grammy Awards.
Jazz Aspen Snowmass founder Jim Horowitz first got wind of Collier just last fall on a talent-scouting trip to New York. At Birdland one night, a festival producer encouraged Horowitz to check out what Collier was up to. Horowitz ended up staying up until nearly dawn watching Collier’s YouTube videos and concert videos.
“I was so floored,” Horowitz recalled. “I sat back on my heels and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe what I just saw.’”
It reminded Horowitz of seeing a young Stevie Wonder in concert as a teenager, when Wonder effortlessly played several instruments along with piano.
“This could be the second coming of Stevie Wonder,” Horowitz said. “He seems to be limited only by his musical imagination.”
Horowitz then went on a mission to book Collier in Aspen, and landed the much-in-demand phenom for the season closer.
Collier’s Aspen gigs, and a concert at the Bluebird Theatre in Denver next week, are sandwiched between dates in Europe and South America. The JAS Cafe performances are two of just seven U.S. shows he’s playing in the remainder of 2017.
A prodigy and bedroom producer, he’s used Pro Tools and YouTube to craft a genre all his own — a sort of one-man a capella group and jazz fusion orchestra. He’s invented his own instruments when his imagination out-stretched the existing tools. But his mastery of digital tools doesn’t mean he can’t hang with conventional concert musicians — he’s also studied jazz piano at the Royal Academy of Music to hone his skills and, if he wanted to, could surely be wowing audiences with only analog instruments at his fingertips.
“He’s young chronologically, but he’s obviously an old soul,” Horowitz said.
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