The Quentin Collins/Brandon Allen Quartet – What’s It Gonna Be?
(Sunlightsquare Records SUNCD010, CD Review by Chris Parker)
From its hard-driving opener (tenor player Brandon Allen‘s What’s It Gonna Be? to its infectiously lively closer (drummer Enzo Zirilli‘s mix of ‘Tea for Two’ with an almost ‘Sidewinder’-ish shuffle rhythm, ‘Teeth for Tooth’), this album harks back to the heyday of hard bop, recalling not only the Lee Morgan or Freddie Hubbard albums so beloved of co-leader, trumpeter Quentin Collins, but also (courtesy of Ross Stanley‘s evocative organ sound) the classic albums of Jimmy Smith and his ilk.
All its tracks except a radio-friendly visit to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Smile Please’, sung by Natalie Williams, are in-band originals intelligently programmed to move between bustling swagger and moody slower pieces, but whether they’re rattling through the former or brooding through the latter, the quartet has a breezy vigour and an unfussy interactive ease that can’t fail to impress.
Collins is a refreshingly straightforward player, blazing and flaring on open trumpet, subtly noodling through a mute, or crooning through his flugelhorn as appropriate; Allen is a perfect frontline partner, his rich, powerful sound enabling him to steam through up-tempo numbers and channel tenderness through quieter ones; the rhythm section (buoyed by Stanley’s deft bass pedals and sparked by Zirilli’s crisply assertive drumming) bristles with disciplined authority – overall, this is an unequivocally enjoyable, immediately accessible but consistently musicianly album.