CD review

Quentin Collins Sextet – “Road Warrior”

Quentin Collins Sextet – Road Warrior
(Ubuntu Records – UB0027 CD Review by Paul Kelly)

Whilst mid-40s Bebop created the seismic break from 30s swing, it was, in reality its slightly less frenetic successor, 50s Hard Bop, that has formed the backbone of much contemporary jazz over the last 65 years. It’s is a style that has lasted well, providing a framework for a wide range of highly talented soloists, arrangers and periodic excursions into allied territory.

Albums with roots in Hard Bop continue to arrive in profusion and if one has to categorise (and it can be helpful), The Quentin Collins Sextet’s Road Warrior is another highly proficient example of the genre. Collins is a bit of a jazz whirlwind. An exceptionally fine trumpet player, a composer and arranger, he tours worldwide as a member of Kyle Eastwood’s band and he’s co-founder of Ubuntu Records whose prodigious output is giving both catalogue and profile to the current bustling British Jazz scene.

Road Warrior is an Anglo-American collaboration with Collins providing half the numbers and the other half coming from the pen of US alto saxist Tom Harrison. Harrison is normally part of the Sextet and was naturally due to play on the session until injury just before recording prevented it. The rhythm section of Dan Nimmer, Joe Sanders and Willie Jones is all American with Leo Richardson and a guest spot from hon-Brit Jean Toussaint providing the UK contribution. US alto saxist Meilana Gillard stepped in at four days’ notice to cover for Harrison and does a good job of it.

Road Warrior is an assured collection of eight well-organised originals with good arrangements plus the Sinatra standard Oh! Look At Me Now. Of the originals, Collins’ opening title track is a driving uptempo piece, with good horn interplay and a sparkling piano solo from Dan Nimmer. Tom Harrison’s The Hill is a tribute to Art Blakey and a swinger with a sort of part-Rhumba rhythm and three-part horn harmonies. It features a fine mellow trumpet solo from Collins and a bass solo with charming unison vocal accompaniment from Joe Sanders. Collins’ Do You Know the Way is up tempo twisting and turning Bop with a finely coiled arrangement and a slightly Oliver Nelson-ish tenor solo from Leo Richardson. And Look Ahead (What Do You See) is a mellow swinger with a Pat Metheny-ish feel and a superb Collins trumpet solo full of entrancing twists and flutters.

The music spans Latin, modal and bop with much driving swing and thematic athleticism. So make sure your seat belt is fastened. In spite of that, there’s no tune on this CD that really grabbed my attention in the way that, say, band member Leo Richardson’s superbly tricksy hard bop Demon E did on his debut CD The Chase. But the writing is tight and the arrangements carefully crafted. There are strong solo performances especially from Leo Richardson, pianist Dan Nimmer and Collins himself who reminds us he is quite one of the best trumpeters around today with a huge technique that is imaginatively applied. If you haven’t run across this album already, it’s worth seeking out.

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