Friday, April 27, 2012

Dennis Rollins: The 11th Gate

Dennis Rollins (trombone)
The 11th Gate (Motema Music; 2011)
Pedro Segundo (drums)
Ross Stanley (organ)

He's only been on the scene a short while but Dennis Rollins has garnered praise in U.K. circles. First through his soul-jazz outfit, Badbone, which had more in common with the work of Soweto Kinch or mid-period Courtney Pine than "traditional" straightahead jazz. His latest incarnation is his Velocity Trio which also explores a variety of themes on its debut, The 11th Gate.

For me, Dennis Rollins has a unique and uncanny way of turning the sound of his trombone into the sound of a saxophone. And he displays that throughout The 11th Gate, along with some very surprising arrangements which makes this a fresh and exciting listen. "Samba Galactica" jumps with fine classic Latin grooves and some soulful organ work by Stanley. Rollins seems to have maintained his R&B/Hip Hop influences but channeled that into a very mature modern structure this time out.

An uptempo vibe filled with some lovely passages by each member flows through on "Ujamma." The trio show elements of both hard bop and spirituality that digs deep and wide. Rollins feels relaxed and seems to be having a great deal of fun. This moves slow to fast quickly, along with changing drum patterns and echoing effects on Rollins' trombone. Stanley has a sweet solo that is filled with some lush tones that are amazing.

"The Big Chill" is fantastic, featuring a dazzling mixture of time changes by Segundo in the opening passages. In addition, Rollins lays down some humorous and well crafted notes in juxtaposition. The piece later switches to a very funky, psychedelic rhythm with Rollins on muted trombone. "The 11th Gate" with it's gospel influence refers to Rollins' 47th birthday (4+7=11). But even more importantly its a special way to close out this album. It's downtempo but reflective piece on how we should be seeking a more positive connection to each other and our place in the world.

In just a few short years, Dennis Rollins has quickly matured and balanced his R&B influences with desire to go beyond the numbered structures of jazz. With his Velocity Trio he has a very unique and industrious group that hopefully will record more frequently. The 11th Gate is a brilliant work.

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