Jacob Collier, a 21st Century Mozart?

by Bill Benzon

A little over a week ago Jacob Collier’s version of Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song” (“Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”) came up on YouTube. I know the song well, and love it. As I’d seen a video or three by this Collier fellow, I decided to give it a listen.

Wow! What?

I was stunned, but also a bit skeptical. Collier was obviously a talented musician, with mad skills. But to what end? This struck me as being musical comfort food. Skillfully made – oh yes! the man has chops! – but comfortable. But then, what’s wrong with comfort? As a steady aesthetic diet, it’s inadequate. But don’t we sometimes turn to music for comfort and solace? Do we not need comfort and solace in this time of Covid, not to mention the post-election tantrums of He Who Must Not Be Named?

What else has Collier got? If it’s all like this, then Collier’s a one trick pony. But maybe he’s got more tricks up his sleeve. I decided to investigate.

Caveat: I’m going to insert a bunch of videos into this piece; one of them is very long – over three hours. Feel free to skip over material. Read more »