Mallet percussionist Tom Collier finally educates listeners on the difference between the vibraphone and marimba: it is the sound. These mallet-driven instruments make a great alternative to the piano, both in solo and ensemble settings. They are rich instruments, the vibraphone with its resonant presence and the marimba with its organic woodiness. Mallet Fantastique houses six extended compositions for mallets that Collier recorded between 2004 and 2009. Like Fissures, this is the new chamber music, not too flashy, but certainly well considered.
The disc opens with Collier's 2007 composition "Marimba Fantastique," in which he presents the full tonal range of the marimba, from its near-vibrophonic reverb to its flattest wooden base. "Three Scenes for Vibraphone and Marimba," from 2005, pit the instruments side-by-side. The tones are different enough to keep things both creative and interesting. Collier's harmonic and melodic sense is well developed and displayed on this suite and on his 2009 "Vibescape or Solo Vibraphone." This latter composition possesses a dreamy quality, like honey and quaaludes. It is as light and rich as whipped cream. The closing "Radio Galop" is a real treat that highlights Collier's grand technical ability. Mallet Fantastique is a very listenable recording that is far enough off the beaten path of music to be both novel and essential.