Album Review: Quentin Collins Sextet – Road Warrior
Quentin Collins Sextet
Quentin Collins is a major force in British jazz – not just as a musician whose longstanding occupancy of the trumpet chair in Kyle Eastwood’s band has cemented his international reputation, but also as an educator, bandleader and producer – wearing the latter hat, he was most recently responsible for Camilla George’s acclaimed Isang. Besides this, in partnership with Martin Hummel he’s a driving force behind Ubuntu records; the label that have done so much in the last four years to promote UK jazz talent, with a focus on explorations grounded in the traditional jazz verities but pushing towards the various boundaries of the mainstream. This release, unsurprisingly, fits firmly within the Ubuntu template; thoroughly grounded in the tradition, buoyed along by superbly high levels of musical accomplishment, and with a confident sense of its own identity.
Opening track Road Warrior sets out the stall; an artfully wrought contemporary bop composition with modal flavours, and echoes of Cedar Walton, Woody Shaw, and of course Freddie Hubbard, whose supernaturally gymnastic, all-register fluency provides a touchstone for Collins’ breathtakingly confident delivery. Do You Know The Way is a thoroughly Blakey-esque hard bop romp, driven along by the crisply accurate swing of US guests Sanders and Jones, over which the soloists simply fly. Marsalis associate Nimmer is a compendium of contemporary jazz piano but never deviates too far from his core style, based in the swinging economy of Kenny Barron or earlier paragons like Wynton Kelly, and his light, precise touch is featured to enchanting effect on The Hill. Leo Richardson is making a name for himself in this exact area of robust, muscular contemporary swing; he roars over the changes, his punchy Joe Henderson inflected tone soaring aloft. Ohio-born, Belfast-based saxophonist Gillard switches to alto from her usual tenor and matches Richardson with her crisply unsentimental delivery and clear cutting tone. Look Ahead brings a straight 8 feel, Fender Rhodes and some twisty writing to evoke a sunny LA fusion feel; Jasmin Breeze is a dark-hued ballad featuring a guest slot by Jean Toussaint, cementing the Messengers association. There’s a range of compositions by saxophonist Tom Harrison alongside the Collins originals, all loosely based around the idea of the musician’s life on the road – a real player’s album, and a real treat for connoisseurs of the contemporary mainstream.
Quentin Collins, trumpet & flugelhorn; Meilana Gillard, alto sax; Leo Richardson, tenor sax; Dan Nimmer, piano, rhodes; Joe Sanders, bass; Willie Jones III, drums; Jean Toussaint, tenor sax.