Jacob Collier on his live album of improvised piano covers: “I set myself the challenge of playing a spontaneous rendition of a different song every night on tour”

On the recent North American and European legs of his Djesse world tour, Jacob Collier got into a routine. Each night, at the halfway point of the show, he’d sit down at his Steinway piano and perform a reimagined version of a popular song.

That was about as predictable as it got, though, because in each case, the performance was largely improvised, and represented the first time that Collier had played the song in public. This musical high-wire act also involved audience participation, with Collier using the crowd as a multi-part choir.

Now 11 of these performances have been documented in a new album: Piano Ballads - Live From The Djesse World Tour 2022. This features interpretations of songs by the likes of Queen, ABBA, James Taylor, Frankie Valli, Elvis Presley, Dougie MacLean, Cole Porter, The Beatles and more.

Jacob Collier

(Image credit: Jacob Collier)

Discussing the project, Collier says: "Ever since I can remember, I have derived a vast amount of comfort and joy from sitting at the piano and improvising. I have long dreamed of sharing an album that lives in that world.

“This year, I set myself the challenge of playing a spontaneous rendition of a different song every night on tour - with the help of my extraordinary musical audience. These 11 are amongst my favourite postcards. I’m so excited to share them with you all!”

You can check out Collier’s performance of Queen’s Somebody To Love in the video above, and his unique take on The Bee Gees’ How Deep Is Your Love below. The album is available now via Hajanga Records/Decca/Interscope.

Collier recently joined Coldplay for impromptu performances at three of their recent Wembley Stadium shows, and also released Never Gonna Be Alone, a collaboration with John Mayer and Lizzy McAlpine.

The Djesse world tour continues this autumn and winter - find out more on the Jacob Collier website.

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.