Quentin Collins/Brandon Allen quartet
9th February 2013
Another wonderful night of world class jazz at the Hive.
Here are some pictures of the event but there are many, many more on our Facebook page.
we are very pleased to have this in depth report from jazz member, Dave Margaroni. Enjoy!
Brandon Allen (tenor sax), Enzo Zirilli (drums),
Ross Stanley (Hammond organ), Quentin Collins (trumpet),
Background details of this group have already appeared on the SJN website; some of which is repeated here for reference.
The group has been described as one of the most exciting on the European jazz scene, their music springs from the creativity and synergy of their 5 years as a unit, inspired by the output of such masters of classic hard bop as Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Larry Young , Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley and others from the 1950/60’s.
Trumpeter Quentin Collins’ work throughout Europe has included collaborations with Roy Hargrove, Jean Toussaint, Dennis Rollins and Mornington Lockett and he tours regularly with Kyle Eastwood’s band. “Mr QC”‘s critically acclaimed album “If not Now, Then When?” was voted one of Mojo’s top ten jazz albums of 2007. This is his third appearance at the Hive, having previously appeared as a duo with vibraphonist Jim Hart, and, more recently, with the TransAtlantic Collective.
Tenor sax player Brandon Allen’s playing makes for powerful front line cohesion with his co-leader. He has toured Europe and Asia with renowned musicians such as Wynton Marsalis, Eric Clapton, Stan Tracey, Peter King and Nigel Hitchcock.
Hammond Organist Ross Stanley is a favourite first call player on organ and piano who has worked with Maceo Parker, Stan Sultzman, Jim Mullen, Seamus Blake, Dennis Rollins and other jazz stars. His innovative playing shows just how contemporary the organ can be.
Drummer Enzo Zirilli is a graduate of Turin’s G. Verdi Conservatoire who began playing at age 8. His skilful inventive playing is both exciting and subtle and has contributed to music with such major jazz figures as Steve Grossman, Charlie Mariano, Randy Brecker, Peter Washington and Gary Bartz.
This was undoubtedly one of the major attractions in the SJN annual programme, and there was a good-sized audience at the Hive.
Expectations were high when the band launched into their first number
‘ I Don’t Behave Like This at Home’. This was a high-energy mid to fast tempo piece, propelled along by a busy, broken beat, implying huge swing, and occasionally venturing into a straight 4/4 rhythm. Stanley drove the band forward with rhythmic right hand work, punctuated with heavy bass lines by the left hand. Zirilli provided an authoritative and busy support, using the whole of the kit, whilst the two leaders delighted the audience with their fluent, fiery improvisational skills. All the musicians were featured individually at some time during this number.
‘Beauty in Quiet Places’ was taken at a slower tempo, but still using the same basic rhythmic patterns as previously. For this piece, Collins moved onto flugelhorn, this instrument being particularly suited to the more sombre mood, particularly in the lower and middle registers which Collins favoured.
’Paw Discontent’, written by Allen in deference to his household cat, commenced with an extended organ/drums duo, followed by a restrained trumpet/sax duo in unison. It then broke into a heavy, 4/4 swing, sax being accompanied by organ and drums, before moving onto a trumpet passage played in double time, this rhythm continuing through a restatement of the melody before moving onto a heavy swinging final organ solo with riff accompaniment from trumpet and sax.
‘Oscars Lullaby’, written by Collins for his baby son, again featured a gentle introduction by the flugelhorn playing in ¾ time, Collins again contributing a thoughtful solo following Allen’s more exuberant contribution.
‘Why’ started with an up tempo duet improvisation before leading into the tune, with 4 bars straight swing preceding reversion to the normal rhythmic pattern. This was followed by an unaccompanied organ solo, with drums subsequently joining in. Trumpet accompanied by drums only followed, before being joined by organ, a sax solo then played against a predominantly swing 4/4, with the final feature being a fluent and dynamic drum solo.
After the interval, the band played ‘Handshake’, the band initially inviting the audience to clap to a regular rhythmic beat, before they then joined in, playing against the audience hand-clap (which of course was timed to be on the off-beat) in an admirable demonstration of how one can make any regular rhythmic beat ‘swing’. The strong 4/4 swing was maintained through a succession of solos, all of which were propelled along by the strong drumming of Zirilli.
The next number ‘Fuerteventura’ (which I always understood to mean ‘strong winds’, until corrected by Quentin!) was inspired by a visit to a Canary Island Jazz Festival. Zirilli used brushes throughout this number, and Collins again reverted to flugelhorn, his solo including a fleeting and unexpected quote from ’Stranger in Paradise’, no doubt a reflection upon finding himself overcome by the idyllic ambience of the islands! Then followed some excellent brush work by Zirilli during a drum solo, before moving onto a sax solo, and finally a unison finish.
At a Brecon jazz festival, an amusing incident prompted Zirilli to write ‘Teeth for Two’, starting with a drum solo which led into an interpretation of the familiar Tea for Two’ melody, played by the two leaders initially in unison, then harmonising before reverting back to unison playing. Sax and trumpet then played alternate choruses, before the organ took over, playing a strong 4/4 swing. This was followed by a re-statement of the theme, then came a drum solo, theme, drum solo – double tempo, before finally finishing on the theme still being played at double tempo.
‘Dark Shadows’ was inspired by a 1960’s gothic horror TV series of the same name, featuring a character named (unbelievably!) ‘Quentin Collins’. A trumpet/organ introduction at slow tempo was then joined by the sax, the latter then soloing before again being joined by the trumpet, these two then soloing unaccompanied for a ‘free’ finish.
‘Modal Tranesition’ is a dedication to two great sax players, John Coltrane and Joe Henderson. An up-tempo number based on a modal progression, commencing with the two horns playing the theme in unison, followed by sax then trumpet solos. A drum solo then followed, before the two horns again played the theme in tight unison.
Although this was to be the final number, such was the enthusiasm of the audience that the band returned to play what was to be the only non-original number of the evening, ‘Like Someone in Love’. However, the treatment was rather different as, after starting in the written key of ‘C’, the band moved through a whole succession of key changes during the succeeding extended organ, trumpet and sax solos.
To summarise, the overwhelming impression of this band was one of high energy and superb musicianship.
All of the numbers featured, apart from two, were written by one or other of the two co-leaders, the exceptions being ‘Teeth for Two (Zirilli), and ‘Like Someone in Love’ (Jimmy van Heusen).
I am often a little apprehensive when confronted by a programme of ‘originals’, since all too often these seem to be penned by newly-graduated students, determined to explore the boundaries of complex chordal progressions, and somehow losing sight of the need that the music should also entertain (and even swing!).
This work of these two co-leaders, however, produced music of a high order that could be described as being a logical development along the lines of bop, without resorting to being just another tribute band. The numbers featured were all interesting, uniquely structured, and the solos had individuality.
The acoustics, overall balance and volume levels of the band were exactly right, as were the lighting arrangements and background music. The general administrative arrangements were friendly and informal, but quietly efficient, a credit to the SJN organisational team.
These SJN events at the Hive continue to attract substantial audiences and the venture as a whole very much deserves to succeed, but additional support is still required to ensure financial viability in the longer term.