Sachal Vasandani & Romain Collin – Midnight Shelter

There is nothing as intimate and raw as a vocal and piano duet. Singer Sachal Vasandani and pianist Romain Collin have recorded an album of 11 songs last year as a sort of healing for not being able to perform, let alone communicate music-wise. As Romain puts it in the press release: “In this time of isolation, being able to spontaneously create music with Sachal was so refreshing. He’s such a versatile musician, and putting together a repertoire of songs that we could re-imagine in an intimate way in the studio felt special to us. I hope this music keeps people in good company.” And Sachal explains: “I met up with my friend and neighbor Romain Collin in the park near my house. After sharing our stories, we agreed we should play – just get together and play. We didn’t set out to make a record, but getting together in the studio gave me a chance to work through the anxiety and anger I’d kept inside throughout the spring and summer.”

Sachal Vasandani/Romain Collin "Midnight Shelter"

They picked up songs by Abbey Lincoln, Nick Drake, Lennon/McCartney, and Bob Dylan, among others, and also contributed their own songs. French pianist Romain, who was part of our five-paw review of the still hauntingly beautiful “Americana” album with Bill Frisell and Grégoire Maret, released on ACT Music last year, once again proves that he is indeed a maestro of introspective, somber and tender notes, and at the same time of actually leaving notes out and let the silence speak. This is by far the most satisfying set by Sachal yet, after three recordings on Mack Avenue and one album on Okeh, the 2015 “Slow Motion Miracles“. On Nick Drake‘s “River Man”, he excels in conjuring up bittersweet moments in the very low registers, and shows his vulnerable and utterly sensitive side in the higher parts, including a sigh and a whisper. You can literally hear him breathe and reflect on the things he tries to say. The way he phrases the words “gonna tell him all I can” with little pauses and restraints, is worth the ticket alone. And he changes to a little more affection and confidence while singing “for when she thought of summer rain
Calling for her mind again
She lost the pain
And stayed for more.”

There is a little hope and optimism conveyed in Sachal’s own composition “Love Away”, even though it’s a song about children separated from their families at the border, but he says “No matter what happens, keep your head up”. And a feeling of sweet freedom on Romain’s beautifully expansive composition “Great Ocean Road” with lyrics by Sachal. There is really a lot of beauty here, with the very comforting opening track “Summer No School” setting the pace and atmosphere for the remainder of the album. Sachal shows his ability for storytelling especially with Lewis Capaldi‘s “Before You Go”. I’m a bit reluctant reviewing his interpretation of “Throw It Away”, one of Abbey Lincoln‘s most rewarding songs. It’s just that I think that nobody can do it better, even though Sachal and Romain come up with a superb take, but still miles away from the original. But they do manage to throw things back and forth, with Romain actually accompanying and putting his own storytelling into focus.

Very interesting to hear Wayne Shorter‘s “Dance Cadaverous” on here, with lyrics by Sachal. The very moody track, which had Freddie Hubbard and Herbie Hancock on the original, is stripped down to its core and once again reminds us what a great ballad composer the amazing Mr. Shorter is. Romain is totally at ease with the song’s structure, playing around with its sinister melody. It’s a spellbinding performance. With a solid version of “Blackbird” and a stirring “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”, Sachal and Romain conclude with another heartbreaking composition by Romain which seems like a timely proclamation: “One Last Try”.

Kudos to the ever improving Edition Records for putting this out on vinyl as well. To be released this Friday, April 23rd.


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