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Quentin Collins Sextet: Road Warrior

Chris May By

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Hard-bop with a modern twist from the British trumpeter Quentin Collins, who is probably best known for his work with the Kyle Eastwood Band and who leads his own transatlantic group on Road Warrior. The frontline is completed by two British-based saxophonists, Leo Richardson on tenor and Meilana Gillard on alto. The rhythm section is out of New York: pianist Dan Nimmer, bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Willie Jones III. The international set-up is reinforced by producer Jean Toussaint, a onetime tenor saxophonist with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers who also plays on two tracks. An ex-New Yorker, Toussaint has been based in Britain since 1987.

Road Warrior adheres to the American post-bop tradition and various historic milestones are evoked during the course of the album. Some may be deliberate references, others unconscious resonances. Either way they are fun to have along. It is hard to imagine that Collins' echo of Miles Davis' "So What" on his opening title track can be other than intended, particularly as the Davis tune opened his own Kind Of Blue (CBS, 1959). The arrangement comes with a strong late-1950s Jazz Messengers vibe. Another presumably intentional reference is to Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker's "Anthropology," which is writ large in Collins' fast-paced bopper, "Do You Know The Way?" Briefly breaking away (and then some) from bop and hard bop, the horn voicings on a third Collins tune, the mellow "Look Ahead (What Do You See?)," suggest any number of pieces written by Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays for the Pat Metheny Group in the early 1980s; coincidentally or not, Dan Nimmer, switches from acoustic piano to Fender Rhodes for the track.

Those are all good tunes. Time will tell, however, whether they are as enduring as Collins' fourth original, the ballad "Wider Horizons." The topline and changes are distinctive and melodic and owe nothing to anyone. Pretty, in the best sense of the word.

Four other tracks were written by alto saxophonist Tom Harrison, a regular associate of Collins. Harrison was scheduled to play on Road Warrior but had to pull out less than a week before the sessions because of an injury. His tunes lack the explicit historical references found in Collins' but one of them, "The Hill," induces a wonderfully Erroll Garner-ish solo from Nimmer, during the course of which he also drops in a few contrasting bars from the Bobby Timmons soul-jazz manual.

Harrison's place in the band was taken at a few days' notice by Meilana Gillard, whose gorgeous Dream Within A Dream (Lyte, 2017) marked the ex-New York, Belfast-based player's return from a quiet spell occasioned by the depression triggered by her mother's passing. Gillard takes several fleet and soulful solos on Road Warrior. It is good to have her back.

The album closes with a jaunty reading of Joe Bushkin and John Devries' Frank Sinatra vehicle "Oh! Look At Me Now."

Track Listing: Road Warrior; Float, Flitter, Flutter; Do You Know The Way?; Look Ahead (What Do You See?); Jasmine Breeze; The Hill; El Farolito; Wider Horizons; Oh! Look At Me Now.

Personnel: Quentin Collins: trumpet, flugelhorn; Meilana Gillard: alto saxophone; Leo Richardson: tenor saxophone; Jean Toussaint: tenor saxophone (5, 7); Dan Nimmer: piano, Fender Rhodes (4); Joe Sanders: acoustic bass; Willie Jones III: drums.

Title: Road Warrior | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Ubuntu Music

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