Who’s that then?
And who’s in his band?
Uhh, he is. That’s it really, most of the time.
But who plays all those other instruments?
He does—piano, bass (of double and electric varieties), drums, tabla, tenor guitar, ukulele, ocarina and melodica (and likely more besides), with more than a smattering of vocals (often through a vocoder or harmoniser) too.
Neat. What does he do with them?
His distinctive style fuses elements of jazz, a capella, groove, folk, classical music, samba, gospel and soul.
Now can you tell me something that’s not on wikipedia?
I have it on good authority that he has a tin of Heinz beans for lunch every day.
Woah there—bit creepy, no?
Welcome to the world of journalism.
Why aren’t you telling me about his music then?
Ouch. Fine then.
He recently released his debut album In My Room, but more on that later. He started to gain an online following with a series of YouTube videos featuring him, harmonising with himself to create complex vocal harmonies on covers of famous tunes by songsters like Stevie Wonder.
If you don’t mind having it stuck in your head for the rest of the day, check out his cover of ‘Isn’t She Lovely’, using exclusively vocals (with a cheeky melodica solo), below.
I thought he plays the piano, bass, drums, guitar, … etc.?
Well, yeah—since the days of multi-panel-vocal Jacob, he’s gone bigger and more layered, multi-tracking and looping all of the various instruments he plays to create some fascinating musical textures. More recently, he’s also been getting into using video technology to recreate his splitscreen YouTube videos in real life. For example, check out the third single, ‘Saviour’, from his album, the video for which was recorded in one take using 6 projectors:
What happens when he gets in a room with 18 other musicians?
You know what, I’m so glad you asked—I was looking for a way to shoehorn in this collaboration he did with the band Snarky Puppy and sousaphonist Big Ed Lee.
(What’s a sousaphone?
We’ve covered this one: check out the feature on Lucky Chops from a couple of weeks ago.)
‘Don’t You Know’ is one of Jacob’s own pieces, also on In My Room, but arranged for the jazz fusion phenomenon that is Snarky Puppy. It feels funky, but drifts off into an ethereal, otherworldly piano solo from Jacob himself before the driving drums drag and tease it back into the high-energy groove from whence it came. Particularly enjoyable are the faces the other band members make as they delight in his pianistic ability and sheer musicality.
If you want to see more of him playing on the same stage as Cory Henry, check out this incredible vocoder battle he has over Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’, featuring Jules Buckley and the Metropole Orkest.
Okay, now you’re just making things up.
No, no, it’s for real.
And as if all we’ve heard so far wasn’t enough, there is room somewhere in Jacob’s soul for this stirringly beautiful orchestral arrangement of his song ‘In the Real Early Morning’, performed at the BBC Proms this year. It showcases his folk influences, which are often understated in the world of jazz, but should not be underestimated.
Where can I find more Jacob?
Have a look at his website, his youtube channel and his facebook page. Also look out for shows—he plays London from time to time. I saw him last night at the Brooklyn Bowl and he was a delight, rushing from instrument to instrument on stage (yeah, he does the whole looping thing live too, complete with an innovative video setup with a webcam that projects copies of his face onto the wall behind the stage). (Jacob, if you’re reading this: please record that version of Blackbird you did. It was fantastic.)
Jazz. (and funk. and folk. and so on.)
Copyright © Jasper Murison-Bowie, 2016