Dennis Rollins’ Velocity Trio Symbiosis
(Dogwithabone Music DRV0001. CD Review by Jon Carvell)
For many UK trombonists Dennis Rollins’ Badbone & Co defined the sound of the early noughties. Rollins was the funkiest trombonist around, blending drum and bass, soul and funk. Having set the bar high, Rollins evolved again in 2011 founding his Velocity Trio with Ross Stanley on Hammond organ and Pedro Segundo on drums, and 2015 sees this line-up release their second album Symbiosis.
The opening track, Utopia, offers a reminder – if one were needed – of just how technically gifted Rollins is. Soaring up to the extremes of the register with ease, Rollins still commands a vibrant tone and agile style, and his complete control allows him to somehow squeeze extra feeling out of choice notes before twisting and turning to somewhere different.
The album’s title track is taut and well crafted, with the pedals of Stanley’s Hammond organ creating a syncopated contrapuntal bass line which cleverly clicks with Segundo’s pared-back playing. Before long, this initial funk is placed to one side for a series of breakneck swing solos. Stanley demonstrates incredible separation of hands and feet here, providing bass in the pedals whilst storming through the changes on the manuals. A whiff of New Orleans is in the air in Boneyard, with purring snare rolls and solos which are left to hang perilously in the gaps between choruses before being caught again by the strutting groove.
There are, however, issues with the album’s pacing as consecutive tracks Hark!, Senhora Do Almortão and Walk in Their Shoes are devoted to solo organ, an organ and drums feature and a drum solo respectively. Rollins joins for the last head of Senhora do Almortão, but given his absence for the first four minutes of the track it rather feels like an afterthought.
These structural niggles aside, there is still a great deal of fun to be had here. Rollins has always had an ear for reworking well-known songs (Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car on his 2003 disc Make Your Move for example) and this album sees a funky take on Pink Floyd’s classic Money, as well as a rendition of Bette Midler’s The Rose. The latter would likely be a saccharin dud in almost anyone else’s hands, but Rollins crafts it into a thoroughly soulful gospel ballad.