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Romain Collin: Press Enter

Karl Ackermann By

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On his way to creating this extraordinary album, French pianist Romain Collin had the opportunity to chat with Wayne Shorter about those who delay and defer their aspirations. Shorter's two word strategic summation would become the title for this project, Press Enter. Now a New York City resident, Collin did not begin his musical journey through the customary club circuits of Europe or New York, instead touring India and Vietnam with players from the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz. His worldly touring experiences (including dates with Shorter and Herbie Hancock) and the mentoring of Ron Carter, Charlie Haden, Wynton Marsalis and other top artists have been impactful but Collins style is unique and engaging without obvious influences.

The lush, propulsive opening number "99," has the best elements of progressive jazz and art rock and is the perfect hook to lead into Press Enter. The pace and atmosphere melding into "Clockwork" before a well-placed "Raw, Scorched and Untethered" provides a roller coaster of tempos and dissonance that demands closer attention. "Holocene"—one of two compositions from a source other than Collin—slows down the program as if to contemplate the backdrop Collin is working to create. The leisurely swing of "The Kids" resets the album and the forceful "Webs" returns to a more hard-driving theme.

"San Luis Obispo" is a beautiful Appalachian-tinged lullaby, sparse and haunting with the wordless vocal of Megan Rose. The powerful and poignant "Event Horizon," with contributions from cellist Laura Metcalf and Rose, chronicles the experiences of death row prisoners freed after wrongful convictions. In conjunction with the Innocence Project, we hear the overlaid voices of the convicted and the effect is memorable and disturbing. Equally moving is the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn inspired "The Line (Dividing Good and Evil Cuts Through the Heart of Every Human Being)" with its persistent urgency and drama reflecting the turmoil of the writer's Soviet era experience. Press Enter closes with Thelonious Monk's "Round About Midnight," a fitting cap given Collin's roots.

Collin's drummer Kendrick Scott and bassist Luques Curtis move impeccably from the theatrical themes to the more lyrically understated interchanges working with both symmetry and independence but always focused on the pictures that Collin intends to paint. The music here is intelligent and intuitive, the improvisation in a lyrical spirit. The defining characteristic of this group is that no one is an island and collectively Collin, Scott and Curtis have astonishing capabilities filling a landscape of incredible expanse.

Track Listing: 99; Clockwork; Raw, Scorched and Untethered; Holocene; The Kids; Webs; San Luis Obispo; Event Horizon; The Line (Dividing Good and Evil Cuts Through the Heart of Every Human Being); Round About Midnight.

Personnel: Romain Collin: piano, sound design, programming; Luques Curtis: double bass; Kendrick Scott: drums; Mino Cinelu: percussion (09); Megan Rose: vocals (01, 08); Jean-Michel Pilc: whistles (05); Grey McMurray: guitar (04); Laura Metcalf: cello.

Title: Press Enter | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: ACT Music

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Raw, Scorched and Untethered

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