Jean-Philippe Collard-Neven: Between The Lines

The Belgium-based Jean-Philippe Collard-Neven describes Between The Lines' piano pieces as music that came to him effortlessly, as music that “surface(d) naturally, without being summoned”; he also characterizes the album as perhaps the “most personal I have ever made.” Its thirteen pieces certainly do sound as if they're so close to his heart, that they naturally poured forth with little struggle. Apparently, the album originated from bits and pieces he'd accumulated over a fifteen-year span, with half-finished songs and scraps of melody gathering dust in his drawers. Refined on technical grounds without being stuffy, the emphasis here is on melodic, song-based rumination rather than strict classical form—more Bill Evans than Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, if you will. Consistent with that song-based approach, the album's thirteen pieces are relatively short, with most falling somewhere between two to six minutes in length. They're consistently pretty too, not to mention filled with emotion, whether that be melancholy, jubilance, or even mournfulness.

Collard-Neven brings an elegant touch and command of tempo to the settings. Never overbearing, he also opts for tasteful restraint, and consequently one is never left wishing he'd play fewer notes. That's not to say, however, that all of the pieces are minimal in design; the third “Falling Star” piece is certainly dense though not gratuitously so, and the title track's thick clusters and cascades resonate vibrantly. He chooses his song titles carefully too, as in many cases the mood of a given piece clearly matches the title selected: “Northern Lights” conveys the grandeur of the titular phenomenon, and “Leaving Valparaiso” and “Lost Paradise” are suitably wistful. Similar in spirit are the pensive and reflective “Moon Smile” and “A Kiss by the Sea,” which feels especially suffused with memories of romantic longing.

A few echoes of other artists and music surface in interesting ways. During the plaintive “Falling Star 2,” for example, a subtle hint of “My Man's Gone Now” emerges in the song's melodic progression, and when Collard-Neven's voice is heard softly murmuring during the bright “Gus” and autumnal “Dust's Hope,” one can't help but be reminded of the similar vocal sounds Keith Jarrett and Glenn Gould added to their own recordings. Aside from the pianist's exquisite rendering of the material, it's Between The Lines' strong melodic dimension that distinguishes its songs most of all.

September 2011