Sachal Vasandani Feat. Romain Collin ‘Midnight Shelter’ LP/CD (Edition) 3/5

US vocalist Sachal Vasandani and French / New York-based pianist Romain Collin have teamed up for the recording of “Midnight Shelter”, an intimate, raw and emotive album. Featuring up close and personal re-workings of classics by songwriters Bob Dylan, Nick Drake and Lennon/McCartney, it also offers the duo the opportunity to perform a selection of original compositions.

Pianist Collin has a rare gift. His playing is mercurial. Whilst the freer, jazzier, more adventurous side of his character can be heard on outings such as “The Calling”, “Press Enter” and “Americana” (with Gregoire Maret and Bill Frisell), this album allows him to explore a more reflective side, which he undoubtedly performs with deft and virtuosic dexterity.

Jazz singer Vasandani has released albums on the Mack Avenue label; “Eyes Wide Open”, “We Move” and “H-Fly”, along with the more recent “Slow Motion Miracles” on the Okeh label. His style is quite traditional, in an American jazz singer kind of way, with its long, great history that tradition bestows.

Performing other people’s well-known songs often can divide opinion. Making them your own is important, with a heartfelt connection or a completely different take on a song always making the difference. On this album, I have to say, it’s the originals that stand out far more than the covers. Maybe it’s because Vasandani and Collin can truly be themselves on these tunes, or maybe it’s because I’m not that taken by their interpretations of some of the classic songs. Maybe it’s a little bit of both.

The glorious original pieces paint beautiful pictures. For me personally, these are the tunes where the duo gel so intuitively well together. “Great Ocean Road” is dreamy and compelling, “Love Away” is like a downbeat fairytale, and “One Last Try” oozes originality and personality. There are some lovely touches to be heard on the likes of Nick Drake’s “Riverman”, Dylan’s “Don’t think twice it’s alright”, and Lennon and McCartney’s “Blackbird”, among others, but ultimately I feel Vasandani doesn’t have the depth of character in his voice to pull the tunes off in a wholly engaging way, with some of the pieces sounding a little like Michael Buble trying to masquerade as a cutting edge singer-songwriter.

All in all, a pleasant enough album, and a refreshing one at that. On balance I’d have preferred to hear more original pieces, but who knows, maybe there will be more to come in the future.

Mike Gates

Read also:
Romain Collin ‘Press Enter’ CD (ACT) 5/5