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Quentin Collins Sextet - Road Warrior Rating: 4 out of 5 It’s the imaginative writing, allied to some superb playing from all involved, that makes this album far more than just a hard bop blowing session.

Quentin Collins Sextet

“Road Warrior”

(Ubuntu Music UBU0027)

Quentin Collins – trumpet & flugelhorn, Meilana Gillard – alto sax, Leo Richardson – tenor sax, Dan Nimmer – piano & Rhodes, Joe Sanders – double bass, Willie Jones III – drums
Guest – Jean Toussaint – tenor sax (tracks 5 & 7)


“Road Warrior” is the long awaited new solo album from the British trumpeter and composer Quentin Collins. It follows his 2007 début “If Not Now, Then When?” which featured the talents of vibraphonist Jim Hart, bassist Michael Janisch and drummer Alan Cosker, plus saxophonist Tony Kofi guesting on alto on a couple of tracks.
Review here http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/if-not-now-then-when/


Collins has also recorded as the co-leader of a quartet featuring saxophonist Brandon Allen. Once known as Drugstore Cowboy the QC/BA Quartet has released two albums, What’s It Gonna Be?” (2011) and “Beauty In Quiet Places” (2016). These are hard grooving, fiercely swinging releases made in the company of organist Ross Stanley and drummer Enzo Zirilli. Both are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann.

Born into a music loving family Collins was introduced to the sounds of jazz at an early age by his father and as a child got to see some of true greats of the music performing live, among them Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton and Dave Brubeck. It was seminal experiences such as these that inspired the young Collins to become a professional musician, a path that he has followed most successfully for the past twenty years as both a jazz and commercial trumpeter.

These days Collins is perhaps best known as a member of American bassist and composer Kyle Eastwood’s Band, a group with which he has toured the world, tasting international success. Other high profile artists with whom he has worked include Fred Wesley, Gregory Porter,  Roy Ayers, Mark Ronson, Omar Kamal, Basement Jaxx, Alicia Keys and Mulatu Astatke. In a more obviously jazz context he has performed with saxophonists Camilla George and Leo Richardson,  with Michael Janisch’s Transatlantic Collective and with the organ trio Wild Card.

Together with impresario Martin Hummell Collins is the co-founder of the increasingly influential Ubuntu Music record label, serving as its creative director and also working as a producer, as well as guesting on trumpet on a number of the label’s releases, notably on albums by George and Richardson.

On “Road Warrior” tenor specialist Richardson is part of a core sextet that features three British horn players alongside a stellar American rhythm section featuring pianist Dan Nimmer, bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Willie Jones III. In keeping with the theme of the album Collins met Nimmer on the road when the American’s trio were opening for the Eastwood band. Nimmer is perhaps best known for his association with Wynton Marsalis while Sanders has worked with pianist Gerald Clayton. Jones performed with the late, great Cedar Walton but has also worked with British musicians such as saxophonist Alex Garnett. Earlier in 2019 he was part of a stellar international sextet led by pianist Trevor Watkis that paid homage to the music of the late Jamaican born trumpeter Dizzy Reece.

Collins says of his American colleagues “New York pianist Dan Nimmer is soaked in the history of jazz piano, in one moment evoking Errol Garner, in the next McCoy Tyner. Bassist Joe Sanders’ sound is a major driving force, while Willie Jones III pumps relentless energy into the music”.

“Road Warrior” is described in the accompanying press release as “a musical depiction of life as a touring musician” and in Scott Yanow’s liner notes as “a musical adventure inspired by those very events musicians encounter while on an unending and often unforgiving tour. It captures the raw emotion, frustration and ultimately joy in one musical ear and mind trip”.

The new album was conceived by Collins and alto saxophonist Tom Harrison, a band leader in his own right. Each musician contributes four original compositions to the recording and the programme is completed by a single standard, “Oh! Look At Me Now”, written by Joe Bushkin and John DeVries.

Harrison was due to appear on the recording but was unable to appear due to what Collins has described as a “personal injury”. The album was recorded almost a year ago so hopefully he will be fit to take up his place in the touring line up. The album features the alto playing of Meilana Gillard,  Belfast born but New York based,  who was drafted in at short notice and who does a terrific job, slotting in seamlessly with the all star line up.

Collins’ music has always been rooted in the sounds of hard bop with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers representing a particularly significant influence. The presence of Toussaint, who also acts as a producer, represents a living link between this recording and hard bop’s illustrious past. Meanwhile Collins’ own playing has been compared to such trumpet giants of the hard bop era as Freddie Hubbard, Blue Mitchell and Lee Morgan. In this respect the music on “Road Warrior” doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, but it’s no less enjoyable for all that. As one would expect the playing is excellent throughout and the writing, from both Collins and Harrison, is succinct, insightful and intelligent and frequently expands the hard bop parameters.

The album commences with Collins’ title track, a piece that he dedicates to all those struggling to balance a career with family life. With its allusions to jazz classics of the past (specifically Miles Davis’ “Kind Of Blue”)  the sound of the piece is reminiscent of Blakey and of Horace Silver with the skilfully performed ensemble passages leading to fluent solos from Collins on trumpet and Richardson on tenor sax. The latter is a musician who has made a big impact on the UK jazz scene in recent years with his own hard bop flavoured outings on the Ubuntu label, “The Chase” (2017) and “Move” (2019), both of which are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann. Nimmer weighs in with a dazzling solo that fully underlines Collins’ remarks about the breadth of the pianist’s talent. Meanwhile Sanders and Jones keep things moving along swingingly and seamlessly, with the latter’s colourful drumming coming to the fore towards the close.

Sanders’ bass introduces Harrison’s “Float Flitter Flutter”, dedicated to the memory of saxophonist Sonny Fortune and inspired by performing at a French jazz festival staged in an old quarry. This mid tempo swinger includes more exceptional ensemble playing,  a dash of rhythmic trickery and hugely inventive solos from Collins, Gillard and Nimmer.

Collins’ “Do You Know The Way” features some of the most energetic playing of the set, a classic slice of contemporary bebop / hard bop with a tricky theme paving the way for barnstorming solos from Collins, Richardson and the ever impressive Nimmer. There’s also an effervescent drum feature from the irrepressible Jones.

Collins’ composition “Look Ahead (What Do You See?) is a further reflection on the work / life balance theme. The piece was inspired by a conversation between the composer and his ten year old son and represents a welcome change in style and pace. With Nimmer switching to Rhodes the feel of the piece is more contemporary with the writing exhibiting a Metheny like sense of melody. It’s not a ballad per se, but the mood is more mellow and relaxed, with gently exploratory solos coming from Nimmer and Collins, here (I think) on flugel.

Harrison’s “Jasmine Breeze” retains the more contemporary feel and is an atmospheric piece introduced by the sound of Sanders’ bass and Jones’ mallet rumbles and cymbal shimmers. Collins’ own playing is sparse, thoughtful and evocative. Sanders also features as a soloist, singing along to his own melody on a succinct bass feature. Toussaint makes the first of his two guest appearance with a suitably ruminative tenor solo. He also combines effectively with the leader.

Also by Harrison “The Hill” features something of a return to the hard bop template and is dedicated to the memory of Blakey. The title comes from Harrison’s memory of “a life changing performance that I did at the site of Blakey’s childhood home in Pittsburgh”. Musically the piece is a showcase for the brilliant Nimmer whose solo embraces a variety of jazz styles and has evoked comparisons with both Errol Garner and one time Messengers pianist Bobby Timmons. In any event it’s all wonderfully fluent and inventive, with the pianist complemented by some superb playing from the rest of the group, with Collins also impressing as a soloist. Sanders weighs in with a few more bars of bass soloing and wordless vocalising.

Harrison’s final contribution with the pen is “El Farolito” - “tense moments over a burrito in San Francisco” he notes enigmatically. This is a lively, Latin-esque hard bop delight with Toussaint making his second guest appearance, this time soloing in a more garrulous and forthright manner as he shares the spotlight with Collins and Gillard.  Meanwhile the busy and creative Jones drums up a storm behind them.

Collins’ final compositional offering is the ballad “Wider Horizons”, written in Los Angeles after a period of “heavy life turbulence”. The theme is one of optimism and of being open to new possibilities. The piece features the leader on flugel while Nimmer is heard at his most lyrical.
The excellent Jones is an important figure throughout with his inventive but supportive playing and Richardson’s tenor is also heard to telling effect. This is an impressive composition with a strong sense of narrative.

The album concludes with the intentionally retro sounds of “Oh! Look At Me Now”, a song probably best known as a vehicle for Frank Sinatra. This straight-ahead jazz instrumental version sounds as if it could have come directly from jazz’s golden age with Sanders and Jones providing the swinging propulsion for a series of excellent solos with Collins, Gillard and Richardson all featuring strongly.

It’s been a long time since Collins’ last album release under his own name. On the evidence of “Road Warrior” the wait has been well worth it. Collins has established an excellent Trans-Atlantic band, much in the spirit of his old mate Janisch, and the British contingent more than hold their own alongside the Americans. Collins is fine form throughout as are Richardson and late signing Gillard. Sanders and Jones form a Rolls Royce of a rhythm section but Nimmer almost steals the show with his inspired soloing and intelligent accompaniment. Toussaint makes a couple of memorable cameos and also acquits himself well in the producer’s chair, assisted by Collins and Harrison. The latter’s contribution to the success of this album shouldn’t be overlooked, he was due to play on it but still plays an important role as a composer and co-producer.

Indeed it’s the imaginative writing of Collins and Harrison that makes this album far more than just a hard bop blowing session. Sure, both composers pay homage to the genre and the era, but they also bring a contemporary sensibility to bear, especially on pieces like “Look Ahead”  “Wider Horizons” and Jasmine Breeze”, all of which which break out of the hard bop mould. The composing, allied to some superb playing from all involved, ensures that “Road Warrior” is a notch above the norm and the album has received unanimous critical acclaim.

Apparently Collins also has another recording in the can due for release in 2020, this featuring a similarly stellar quintet under his leadership that includes pianist Jason Rebello and drummer Gary Husband. This is something well worth looking forward to but in the meantime Collins will be touring the “Road Warrior” material extensively with an all British band in tow. Remaining dates below;

2019
23rd September - Ashburton Arts Centre
24th September - Western Hotel, St Ives
25th September - Dorchester Arts Centre
28th September - Herts Jazz Festival
30th September - TrinityLaban Conservatoire, London
4th October - Leeds College of Music
8th October - Theatr Clwyd, Mold, North Wales
10th October - Bonington Theatre, Nottingham
11th October - Crookes Social Club, Sheffield
18th October - Progress Theatre, Reading
27th October - Wigan Jazz
28th October - NCEM, York
29th October - Flute & Tankard, Cardiff

More information at
https://www.quentincollinsmusic.com


Road Warrior

Quentin Collins Sextet

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Road Warrior

It’s the imaginative writing, allied to some superb playing from all involved, that makes this album far more than just a hard bop blowing session.

Quentin Collins Sextet

“Road Warrior”

(Ubuntu Music UBU0027)

Quentin Collins – trumpet & flugelhorn, Meilana Gillard – alto sax, Leo Richardson – tenor sax, Dan Nimmer – piano & Rhodes, Joe Sanders – double bass, Willie Jones III – drums
Guest – Jean Toussaint – tenor sax (tracks 5 & 7)


“Road Warrior” is the long awaited new solo album from the British trumpeter and composer Quentin Collins. It follows his 2007 début “If Not Now, Then When?” which featured the talents of vibraphonist Jim Hart, bassist Michael Janisch and drummer Alan Cosker, plus saxophonist Tony Kofi guesting on alto on a couple of tracks.
Review here http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/if-not-now-then-when/


Collins has also recorded as the co-leader of a quartet featuring saxophonist Brandon Allen. Once known as Drugstore Cowboy the QC/BA Quartet has released two albums, What’s It Gonna Be?” (2011) and “Beauty In Quiet Places” (2016). These are hard grooving, fiercely swinging releases made in the company of organist Ross Stanley and drummer Enzo Zirilli. Both are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann.

Born into a music loving family Collins was introduced to the sounds of jazz at an early age by his father and as a child got to see some of true greats of the music performing live, among them Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton and Dave Brubeck. It was seminal experiences such as these that inspired the young Collins to become a professional musician, a path that he has followed most successfully for the past twenty years as both a jazz and commercial trumpeter.

These days Collins is perhaps best known as a member of American bassist and composer Kyle Eastwood’s Band, a group with which he has toured the world, tasting international success. Other high profile artists with whom he has worked include Fred Wesley, Gregory Porter,  Roy Ayers, Mark Ronson, Omar Kamal, Basement Jaxx, Alicia Keys and Mulatu Astatke. In a more obviously jazz context he has performed with saxophonists Camilla George and Leo Richardson,  with Michael Janisch’s Transatlantic Collective and with the organ trio Wild Card.

Together with impresario Martin Hummell Collins is the co-founder of the increasingly influential Ubuntu Music record label, serving as its creative director and also working as a producer, as well as guesting on trumpet on a number of the label’s releases, notably on albums by George and Richardson.

On “Road Warrior” tenor specialist Richardson is part of a core sextet that features three British horn players alongside a stellar American rhythm section featuring pianist Dan Nimmer, bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Willie Jones III. In keeping with the theme of the album Collins met Nimmer on the road when the American’s trio were opening for the Eastwood band. Nimmer is perhaps best known for his association with Wynton Marsalis while Sanders has worked with pianist Gerald Clayton. Jones performed with the late, great Cedar Walton but has also worked with British musicians such as saxophonist Alex Garnett. Earlier in 2019 he was part of a stellar international sextet led by pianist Trevor Watkis that paid homage to the music of the late Jamaican born trumpeter Dizzy Reece.

Collins says of his American colleagues “New York pianist Dan Nimmer is soaked in the history of jazz piano, in one moment evoking Errol Garner, in the next McCoy Tyner. Bassist Joe Sanders’ sound is a major driving force, while Willie Jones III pumps relentless energy into the music”.

“Road Warrior” is described in the accompanying press release as “a musical depiction of life as a touring musician” and in Scott Yanow’s liner notes as “a musical adventure inspired by those very events musicians encounter while on an unending and often unforgiving tour. It captures the raw emotion, frustration and ultimately joy in one musical ear and mind trip”.

The new album was conceived by Collins and alto saxophonist Tom Harrison, a band leader in his own right. Each musician contributes four original compositions to the recording and the programme is completed by a single standard, “Oh! Look At Me Now”, written by Joe Bushkin and John DeVries.

Harrison was due to appear on the recording but was unable to appear due to what Collins has described as a “personal injury”. The album was recorded almost a year ago so hopefully he will be fit to take up his place in the touring line up. The album features the alto playing of Meilana Gillard,  Belfast born but New York based,  who was drafted in at short notice and who does a terrific job, slotting in seamlessly with the all star line up.

Collins’ music has always been rooted in the sounds of hard bop with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers representing a particularly significant influence. The presence of Toussaint, who also acts as a producer, represents a living link between this recording and hard bop’s illustrious past. Meanwhile Collins’ own playing has been compared to such trumpet giants of the hard bop era as Freddie Hubbard, Blue Mitchell and Lee Morgan. In this respect the music on “Road Warrior” doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, but it’s no less enjoyable for all that. As one would expect the playing is excellent throughout and the writing, from both Collins and Harrison, is succinct, insightful and intelligent and frequently expands the hard bop parameters.

The album commences with Collins’ title track, a piece that he dedicates to all those struggling to balance a career with family life. With its allusions to jazz classics of the past (specifically Miles Davis’ “Kind Of Blue”)  the sound of the piece is reminiscent of Blakey and of Horace Silver with the skilfully performed ensemble passages leading to fluent solos from Collins on trumpet and Richardson on tenor sax. The latter is a musician who has made a big impact on the UK jazz scene in recent years with his own hard bop flavoured outings on the Ubuntu label, “The Chase” (2017) and “Move” (2019), both of which are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann. Nimmer weighs in with a dazzling solo that fully underlines Collins’ remarks about the breadth of the pianist’s talent. Meanwhile Sanders and Jones keep things moving along swingingly and seamlessly, with the latter’s colourful drumming coming to the fore towards the close.

Sanders’ bass introduces Harrison’s “Float Flitter Flutter”, dedicated to the memory of saxophonist Sonny Fortune and inspired by performing at a French jazz festival staged in an old quarry. This mid tempo swinger includes more exceptional ensemble playing,  a dash of rhythmic trickery and hugely inventive solos from Collins, Gillard and Nimmer.

Collins’ “Do You Know The Way” features some of the most energetic playing of the set, a classic slice of contemporary bebop / hard bop with a tricky theme paving the way for barnstorming solos from Collins, Richardson and the ever impressive Nimmer. There’s also an effervescent drum feature from the irrepressible Jones.

Collins’ composition “Look Ahead (What Do You See?) is a further reflection on the work / life balance theme. The piece was inspired by a conversation between the composer and his ten year old son and represents a welcome change in style and pace. With Nimmer switching to Rhodes the feel of the piece is more contemporary with the writing exhibiting a Metheny like sense of melody. It’s not a ballad per se, but the mood is more mellow and relaxed, with gently exploratory solos coming from Nimmer and Collins, here (I think) on flugel.

Harrison’s “Jasmine Breeze” retains the more contemporary feel and is an atmospheric piece introduced by the sound of Sanders’ bass and Jones’ mallet rumbles and cymbal shimmers. Collins’ own playing is sparse, thoughtful and evocative. Sanders also features as a soloist, singing along to his own melody on a succinct bass feature. Toussaint makes the first of his two guest appearance with a suitably ruminative tenor solo. He also combines effectively with the leader.

Also by Harrison “The Hill” features something of a return to the hard bop template and is dedicated to the memory of Blakey. The title comes from Harrison’s memory of “a life changing performance that I did at the site of Blakey’s childhood home in Pittsburgh”. Musically the piece is a showcase for the brilliant Nimmer whose solo embraces a variety of jazz styles and has evoked comparisons with both Errol Garner and one time Messengers pianist Bobby Timmons. In any event it’s all wonderfully fluent and inventive, with the pianist complemented by some superb playing from the rest of the group, with Collins also impressing as a soloist. Sanders weighs in with a few more bars of bass soloing and wordless vocalising.

Harrison’s final contribution with the pen is “El Farolito” - “tense moments over a burrito in San Francisco” he notes enigmatically. This is a lively, Latin-esque hard bop delight with Toussaint making his second guest appearance, this time soloing in a more garrulous and forthright manner as he shares the spotlight with Collins and Gillard.  Meanwhile the busy and creative Jones drums up a storm behind them.

Collins’ final compositional offering is the ballad “Wider Horizons”, written in Los Angeles after a period of “heavy life turbulence”. The theme is one of optimism and of being open to new possibilities. The piece features the leader on flugel while Nimmer is heard at his most lyrical.
The excellent Jones is an important figure throughout with his inventive but supportive playing and Richardson’s tenor is also heard to telling effect. This is an impressive composition with a strong sense of narrative.

The album concludes with the intentionally retro sounds of “Oh! Look At Me Now”, a song probably best known as a vehicle for Frank Sinatra. This straight-ahead jazz instrumental version sounds as if it could have come directly from jazz’s golden age with Sanders and Jones providing the swinging propulsion for a series of excellent solos with Collins, Gillard and Richardson all featuring strongly.

It’s been a long time since Collins’ last album release under his own name. On the evidence of “Road Warrior” the wait has been well worth it. Collins has established an excellent Trans-Atlantic band, much in the spirit of his old mate Janisch, and the British contingent more than hold their own alongside the Americans. Collins is fine form throughout as are Richardson and late signing Gillard. Sanders and Jones form a Rolls Royce of a rhythm section but Nimmer almost steals the show with his inspired soloing and intelligent accompaniment. Toussaint makes a couple of memorable cameos and also acquits himself well in the producer’s chair, assisted by Collins and Harrison. The latter’s contribution to the success of this album shouldn’t be overlooked, he was due to play on it but still plays an important role as a composer and co-producer.

Indeed it’s the imaginative writing of Collins and Harrison that makes this album far more than just a hard bop blowing session. Sure, both composers pay homage to the genre and the era, but they also bring a contemporary sensibility to bear, especially on pieces like “Look Ahead”  “Wider Horizons” and Jasmine Breeze”, all of which which break out of the hard bop mould. The composing, allied to some superb playing from all involved, ensures that “Road Warrior” is a notch above the norm and the album has received unanimous critical acclaim.

Apparently Collins also has another recording in the can due for release in 2020, this featuring a similarly stellar quintet under his leadership that includes pianist Jason Rebello and drummer Gary Husband. This is something well worth looking forward to but in the meantime Collins will be touring the “Road Warrior” material extensively with an all British band in tow. Remaining dates below;

2019
23rd September - Ashburton Arts Centre
24th September - Western Hotel, St Ives
25th September - Dorchester Arts Centre
28th September - Herts Jazz Festival
30th September - TrinityLaban Conservatoire, London
4th October - Leeds College of Music
8th October - Theatr Clwyd, Mold, North Wales
10th October - Bonington Theatre, Nottingham
11th October - Crookes Social Club, Sheffield
18th October - Progress Theatre, Reading
27th October - Wigan Jazz
28th October - NCEM, York
29th October - Flute & Tankard, Cardiff

More information at
https://www.quentincollinsmusic.com



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