This is the best double album of hard-rocking jazz fusion with a cartoon pterodactyl on the cover that a 19-year-old has ever recorded. Jokes aside, this really is an excellent album! Fedele is a 19-year-old multi-instrumentalist based in California. His primary instrument seems to be keyboards of all varieties, but he’s also an extremely capable bassist and drummer. “A Collection of Color” showcases not only his skills as an instrumentalist but his penchant for classical composition and jazzy style. Basically, it sounds like a modernized collaboration between Keith Emerson and Chick Corea, with Geddy Lee and Mike Portnoy serving as a studio rhythm section.
The first track, “The Journey,” is just that-a journey. It begins as a slow piano piece, but it’s not long before the drums, bass and synths kick in, gradually getting faster and faster. The unlikely chords which make up this song give it a feel of uncertainty and intrigue, leaving you wondering what the rest of the record holds! The next song, “Evil,” sounds like a weird indie cross between EDM and ELP and is one of three tracks to feature Bruno Elisabetsky on acoustic guitar. The name fits perfectly-it sounds evil! The next song, “Jungle Glide,” is just pure fun. One might subtitle it “In Which We Try Out All The Settings On This Synthesizer.” It displays Fedele’s keyboard style perfectly: technical, yet soulful and fluid. The song starts with a jubilant intro with a crazy organ solo, before moving on to a synth-string based middle section and then a funky jam. Finally, after an atmospheric coda, it shifts back into the original theme.
Next up is the lead single of the album, “Galaxies In Harmony.” It begins with a jarring, buzzy noise (á la “Distant Early Warning”) and a jazzy intro reminiscent of Relayer by Yes. But don’t let the jazz influences fool you-it’s a bona fide metal song! It doesn’t have guitar, but the keyboard work is so interesting and multi-faceted, and the drumming so heavy and technical, that it doesn’t need guitar. “Escape From The Chaotic Carnival” is appropriately titled-the song is fast, chaotic, and full of unusual stylistic and tonal flavors. If you would have blindfolded me and told me it was ELP, I would’ve believed you! It’s an incredibly satisfying prog composition with tastes of more bands and songs than I have time to name. These two songs are just about tied for my favorite.
“Triplejam” is a bit of a contrast to the rest of the album: rather than walking the line between jazz, electronic, and metal, as the rest of the songs do, it switches wildly between the three genres, leaving the listener dazed and confused. It also features a marimba solo (at least, I think it’s a marimba) and Fedele’s best bass performance of the album. At around the four-minute mark, Jarod pulls off an intense piano solo that is one of the best moments on the album. “Locrian Ocean” is pure jazz fusion, featuring Milo Bechtloff Weising on alto sax. The catchy swing beat underlies some very complex chord progressions and an array of the unusual sounds that mark this album. The marimba is back, and I think I hear some steelpan in there somewhere! This is one that will appeal to theory geeks everywhere. “Battle Theme” begins as a slow but stirring classical piece, largely featuring Fedele’s piano and a brass synthesizer, before transforming into a syncopated hard-rock instrumental. Full of epic melodies, sweeping chords and striking changes, it’s the kind of song you’d listen to as you march into battle.
The final track, “Sixth Dissonance,” clocks in at forty minutes, which is pretty insane! Luckily, it’s not a waste of time; it does actually use all forty minutes on new ideas. The first five minutes or so are mostly acoustic and piano-based. In a lot of ways, the piano carries the whole song! The next five minutes spend a lot of time on two mind-blowing bass solos. While the tone is very Geddy-esque, Fedele’s bass guitar technique is not as punchy or technical as Geddy’s. It very much resembles his keyboard technique-fluid and lyrical, slipping seamlessly from lick to lick. The next five minutes are a rollercoaster of piano pieces, distorted keyboard solos, and intense drum fills. At the 16-minute mark, Fedele plays one of the best solos on the album before moving on to a synth-driven bridge with a feel similar to that of the earlier songs on the record. It’s really well-done, but honestly, I think this part lasts a lot longer than it should. It’s essentially seven minutes before anything changes! At the 27-minute mark, we finally hear the drums again. One doesn’t realize how important drums are until one goes ten minutes without them. The next six minutes are essentially a long jam session, dominated by hard-rock and funk flavors. The album closes out with a satisfying, atmospheric outro that perfectly summarizes the weirdness that has just taken place.
If I do have a complaint about “A Collection of Color,” it is the length. It’s almost two hours long! That’s a long time to sit through one album, especially if it’s as intense as this one. Fortunately, it’s all strong, with no filler except in “Sixth Dissonance.” I’d recommend listening to the first eight songs in one sitting and “Sixth Dissonance” separately. That way, it’s a little easier to take in!
In short, this album shows an incredible instrumental musician with a lot of promise. Length-wise, it’s quite a mouthful, but it’s exciting, melodic, inventive, and tasty from the first piano chords to the last strum of the acoustic guitar. If you like Emerson, Lake & Palmer and/or Chick Corea-heck, if you like any of the artists I mentioned-this album is worth your money, and even if it doesn’t sound like your thing, it’s at least worth the nine minutes it will take you to listen to “Galaxies in Harmony.” Jarod Fedele is a progressive musician in the truest sense of the word, and I’m on the edge of my seat for album 2!