Quentin Collins releases a new album, Road Warrior, on Friday 13 September. It’s an album that reflects on the trumpeter’s 25 years playing jazz and celebrates all the musicians out there who try to maintain some sort of normality while doing a job they might love but which doesn’t make normality easy. Rob Adams spoke to him:
“I well remember going down to sessions as a sixteen-year-old and getting my backside kicked by more experienced players,” says Quentin Collins. “But that’s as much a part of developing as a musician as going out on the road and clocking up the miles and the gigs. Everyone who’s doing this goes through the same things and I just wanted to pay tribute to all the musicians who spend a large percentage of their lives travelling and plying their trade and the rest of their time trying to hold everything else together.”
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Just to illustrate his point, when we speak Collins has just returned from taking his ten year old son to open his first bank account, the sort of event that he might well have missed while touring and recording with Kyle Eastwood, Gregory Porter, Fred Wesley, Dennis Rollins and Alicia Keys, to name but a few of the musicians who have called on Collins’ expertise.
Road Warrrior was co-written by Collins and his great friend, alto saxophonist and flautist Tom Harrison, who was due to join the band in the studio but had to withdraw through injury. (His place was taken at four days’ notice by the New York-based Meilana Gillard.)
“We wrote the tracks separately, so I can’t speak for Tom, but ideas come to me in various ways and at various times,” says Collins. “I might sit down and improvise on the piano or a melody might just come into my head while I’m travelling or doing something mundane. We didn’t discuss things too much beforehand but we both came up with ideas that fitted the same format and it was a question of making an album that flowed and had its own identity.”
The band Collins put together for the album is, he says, a dream team, with the New York rhythm section of pianist Dan Nimmer, bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Willie Jones lll joining a frontline of Collins, the aforementioned Meilana Gillard and tenor saxophonist Leo Richardson. Former Jazz Messenger, the long-time London-based Jean Toussaint, who produced the album, also played on two tracks.
“Having Jean in the studio was great because, firstly, he’s such a voice of authority that when he speaks, everybody listens,” says Collins. “He’s also such an encouraging presence. He didn’t dictate but he made some great suggestions and just generally kept the sessions productive and buzzing”
Dan Nimmer was Collins’ first choice on piano, the two having met while touring with Kyle Eastwood’s band, and it was Nimmer who suggested Willie Jones lll. It was a coincidence that Dan & Joe went to High School together. Andrew McCormack & Chris Higginbottom (pianist & drummer in Kyle Eastwood Band) encouraged me to ask Joe Sanders, having met/worked with him in other contexts.
“Tom and I workshopped the material with London musicians before we went into the studio,” says Collins. “We wanted to have the arrangements as close to studio-ready as possible and then Dan, Joe and Willie added their incredible energy. They’ve agreed to come back over for the album launch gigs at Pizza Express in Dean Street and at Duc Des Lombards in Paris, so we’ll have more or less the studio band for those two gigs.”
Following the London and Paris dates, Collins has a further 15 concerts lined up in England and Wales with a strong sextet of home-grown talents. Leo Richardson and Tony Kofi, on tenor and alto respectively, join Collins in the frontline and Scottish pianist Steve Hamilton, whose main gig currently is with drumming legend Billy Cobham’s band, bassist Larry Bartley and drummer Winston Clifford.
“Winston’s a bit of an unsung hero for me,” says Collins. “I love his playing and his spirit and Steve is a real master. It’s a great band and I’m really looking forward to taking it out on the road and playing with these guys over quite an intense period.” (pp)
* Featuring Dan Nimmer, Willie Jones III, Joe Sanders
3 September – Pizza Express Jazz Club, London*
4 September – Duc Des Lombards, Paris*
21 September – Calstock Arts Centre
22 September – ThePlough@StAnne’s, Barnstaple
23 September – Ashburton Arts Centre
24 September – Western Hotel, St Ives
25 September – Dorchester Arts Centre
28 September – Herts Jazz Festival
30 September – TrinityLaban Conservatoire
4 October – Leeds College of Music
8 October – Theatr Clwyd, North Wales
10 October – Bonington Theatre, Nottingham
11 October – Crookes Social Club, Sheffield
18 October – Progress Theatre, Reading
27 October – Wigan Jazz
28 October – NCEM, York
29 October – Flute & Tankard, Cardiff
LINK: Quentin Collins’ website