You might know the inspiring exhortation, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The quite remarkable Colin Hancock has put his own inventive spin on that, and I imagine “Be the music you want to hear!” is his motto. I’ve written about Colin and his Original Cornell Syncopators as they appeared at the San Diego Jazz Fest last year (dig in here) and they will be appearing in San Diego again this November: make plans here!
And I had the pleasure of seeing the larger unit in New York very recently: hot evidence here.
But this post is not about the wonderful young people who make up Colin’s bands. All respect to them, no. This post is about Colin, the one, the only. The dazzling multi-instrumentalist and recording engineer and Imaginer, the young man who gets inside the music rather than copying its most obvious features.
Over the summer, Colin made some records. That might not raise an intrigued eyebrow until you learn that he plays all the instruments on these records (and sings on one), that they are brilliantly loving evocations of time, place, and style, with no artificial ingredients. They aren’t tricks or stunts: they are MUSIC.
There is, of course, a tradition of one-man-band records: Sidney Bechet for Victor, Humphrey Lyttelton’s ONE MAN WENT TO BLOW, and more — but Colin’s are deeper and more thoughtfully lovely than simply ways to show off multiple expertises. What he’s done is make beautiful little alternative universes: imagine if __________ band had played ___________: what would it sound like? Some bands have no single historical antecedents: they exist only in his wide imagination. And the results are amazing on their own terms: play one, without identifying it, for a hot jazz fan, and see what she says; play one for a deeply scholarly hot jazz fan and hear the encomia, because the music is just right, imaginative as well as idiomatically wise.
Here’s an example, evoking Johnny Dunn’s Jazz Hounds:
a splendid visit to Red Hot Chicago:
and a tender creation honoring Bix, Tram, Lang, and their circle, casting admiring side-glances at Benny and Jimmy McP:
finally (for this post) a frolic, Mister Hancock on the vocal chorus:
You can hear more of Colin’s startling magic on his YouTube channel here. And there’s a brand-new interview of this wondrous trickster here.
Fats Waller would have called Colin “a solid sender” or perhaps “a killer-diller from Manila!” but I think, perhaps more sedately, of Colin as someone who likes to imagine aural parties and then generously invites all to join him. What gifts!
May your happiness increase!