Dennis Rollins’ Velocity Trio – The 11th Gate – Motéma Music MTM-77, 47:24 ***1/2:
(Dennis Rollins – trombone, electronics, co-producer; Ross Stanley – Hammond B-3 organ; Pedro Segundo – drums, percussion)
English trombonist Dennis Rollins has done something unique with his latest outing, The 11th Gate, his first international release (and the first British signing for the Motéma label). He has created the Velocity Trio, one of the few trombone-led Hammond B-3 organ trios (Jay Vonada has a likeminded trio in Pennsylvania). Ray Anderson’s Bass-Drum-Bone, Jaap Voeten’s Don’t Git Sassy and Nils Wogram’s Nostalgia Trio exist, but they do different kinds of music. Rollins has put his patented funk-jazz in the forefront: this is all groove, sometimes low and smoldering and sometimes upbeat and vigorous.
British listeners probably know Rollins either through his other group, BadBone and Co., which has issued a number of crossover efforts, or Rollins’ connections to Courtney Pine and Maceo Parker, or perhaps Rollins’ credits for Tom Jones, The Brand New Heavies, Blur and others. With the Velocity Trio, which also has organist Ross Stanley and drummer Pedro Segundo, Rollins focuses on his soulful and spirited trombone playing with 11 tracks which jump, leap and occasionally dip into meditative moments.
The threesome kicks off with the rambunctious “Samba Galactica,” fronted by a dance-influenced Latin beat and a snappish trombone/organ melodic hook. Rollins has a sturdy interplay with Stanley, with the trombone firmly in the foreground and the organ slightly back in the mix. The CD contains a bonus CD-ROM video clip of the same tune with footage of Rollins, his band and his family. It can also be viewed online. The well-named “Ujamma” has a similar feel, where Rollins has a cheerful tone accentuated by Segundo’s swinging drums. There is a shade of tension here and there which occurs when the piece changes tempo, but for the most part this is a steady groove fest, demonstrated strongly when Stanley takes a rollicking solo. The trio also shows a groove simpatico on “Big Chill.” Rollins shines throughout (and displays his distinctive use of electronic effects during a wah-wah trombone improvisation) while Stanley layers a droning undercurrent which heats up several times. Segundo keeps things moving along with textural rhythms which maintain a robust foundation.
Segundo was born and raised in Portugal and his Latin roots flash forth on several tunes. The slinky and slowly percolating “The Other Side” features Segundo’s light and lithe rhythmic facility, along with Rollins’ beautiful soloing, a cool but kindled main theme and an expressive counter melody. Stanley switches to digitized electronics during his solo break, which adds contemporary coloring. Segundo discloses a different side on his brief percussion/drums interval, “Contemplation,” which has an Asian-African impression.
One of the highlights is a brisk treatment of Eddie Harris’ much-loved “Freedom Jazz Dance,” which combines a soulful sixties quality with updated ingredients (such as subtle electronic production touches) which evoke current dance music. There is plenty of American funk thrown in, particularly during Stanley’s solo, but Rollins and Segundo clearly know their funk as well. Rollins takes post-production a step further on the closing title track, where he utilizes overdubbing to harmonize twinned trombones on a sauntering, lingering arrangement. Throughout The 11th Gate Rollins is convincing and it is refreshing to hear a trombone leading an organ trio.
TrackList: Samba Galactica; Emergence; Everything Is Mind; Ujamma; Contemplation; The Other Side; Big Chill; Lightworker; Freedom Jazz Dance; Iluminous; The 11th Gate.
A bona fide jazz legend is celebrated with an all-star documentary soundtrack vinyl soundtrack.