"Maui, Hawaii" (R. Collin)
"The Calling" (R. Collin)
"The Rise and Fall of Pipokuhn" (R. Collin)
With Jon Weber, "How Deep Is the Ocean" (I. Berlin)
"Visa Fran Utanmyra" (J. Johansson)
"Runner's High" (R. Collin)
"One Last Try" (R. Collin)
With Jon Weber, "What Is This Thing Called Love?" (C. Porter)
Visionary young pianist and composer Romain Collin came to the U.S. from Antibes, in the South of France, on a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music. While there, he studied under Dave Liebman and Joe Lovano, and won the school's highly coveted Joe Zawinul Award for Music Synthesis. Collin then earned his Masters with the Thelonious Monk Institute ensemble, which included a Southeast Asian tour playing with faculty members Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, two of the most accomplished composers in jazz. Before graduating in 2007, Collin formed his own trio and began an ambitious project that would become his debut album, a suite of original compositions titled The Rise and Fall of Pipokuhn. Collin brings his original music and a few standards to this episode of Piano Jazz with guest host Jon Weber.
"When I write music, it helps if I can dedicate the composition to a particular emotion or event in my life," Collin says. "It helps to focus the theme of the piece."
The Rise and Fall of Pipokuhn is an autobiographical account, in eight pieces, of Collin's transition from gifted student to working performer on the New York jazz scene. His weighty titles are personal, and remain somewhat cryptic to the listener: "Ashes and Snow," "The Fight Behind the Great Wall," "The Giant Scam" and Collin's first number on this Piano Jazz session, "Maui, Hawaii." The tune is light and breezy, but Collin's intense playing is cerebral in the manner of Keith Jarrett, and never threatens frivolousness. There are moments of introspection, but mostly of Collin's happy memories of Maui: "I spent about a week there," he says. "I didn't have a gig, so it was all fun."
A Cinematic Quality
The film-score bug must have rubbed off during intensive rehearsal sessions with the Thelonious Monk ensemble: members Hancock, Shorter and Terence Blanchard are all accomplished film composers.
"I get that often," Collin says. "People say my music could fit with film very, very well. And I would love the opportunity to write more music for movies."
Collin's filmic piece, "The Calling," is equal parts Rachmaninoff and Radiohead, as he plays a dramatic melody over a hypnotic minor-key bass line.
"Exquisite," Weber says. "I feel like I'm listening to the soundtrack of an epic film playing in your head."
Turning to the Great American Songbook, Collin gets together with guest host Weber for a duet version of Irving Berlin's "How Deep Is the Ocean?" Their take on the tune is pure magic: swinging, graceful and fun. Weber follows with his rendition of Jan Johansson's "Visa Fran Utanmyra," an arrangement of an old Swedish folk song. The tune has an earthy lilt with a dark undercurrent; it could easily work in the score to an Ingmar Bergman film.
Collin follows with two more originals: the sparkling virtuoso exercise "Runner's High" and a lyric piece, "One Last Try," which grabs the heart strings and won't let go. The session closes with a fiery duet workout on "What Is This Thing Called Love?" by Cole Porter. The two pianists play at a dizzying clip with breakneck solo lines on top.
"Marian [McPartland] definitely knows her piano players," Weber says. "You are everything she said and much, much more."
Originally recorded March 22, 2010. Originally broadcast July 13, 2010.