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Dennis Rollins Velocity Trio: The 11th Gate

Chris M. Slawecki By

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For more than two decades, British trombonist Dennis Rollins has played alongside Maceo Parker, Courtney Pine, The Brand New Heavies and others in and around his home base in the United Kingdom. Rollins' first international release, The 11th Gate came about from a simple conversation Rollins had with Pine, who wondered if it was possible for Rollins to record his Velocity Trio in a way that truly reflected the trombonist's personal influences and style.

It's no wonder that Pine wondered: You don't hear too many organ trios like Rollins' Velocity Trio, which features drummer/percussionist Pedro Segundo and Ross Stanley on the Hammond B-3, led by Rollins' trombone and electronics. You also don't hear too many bands that devote their international debut to a numerical motif. "My familiar area of funk and groove was not the focus, but not to be ignored," the leader explains. "I chose the overall theme (and composition titles) to reflect global awareness, focusing on the evolution of human collective consciousness AND the need to recognize each individual's unique spiritual being. I honed in on a specific date on our calendar—November 11, 2011 (11.11.11)—THE ELEVENTH GATE, signaling a universal paradigm shift, an emergence into our authentic selves." (November 11, 2011 was also Rollins' 47th [4 + 7 = 11] birthday.)

So The 11th Gate is sprawling and ambitious. Thanks to Rollins' inventive instrumentation and compositions, stitched into whole cloth by solo trombone, percussion and Hammond interludes, it is also a triumph. The leadoff "Samba Galactica" serves a great introductory course: While Segundo and Stanley drift in and out of airy samba and jazz rhythms, Rollins's trombone alternates between notes that sharply sting like crisply articulated trumpet, and soft tones that paint in butterfly flurries of languid color; when Rollins' trombone steps aside, Segundo and Stanley dialogue generates engaging Brazilian magic.

On "The Other Side," Stanley runs through organ chords that somehow bob and crest in waves, from which Rollins' trombone seems to rise like a larger than life musical leviathan. Rollins kicks off "Big Chill" with meaty riffing, introducing New Orleans drumming that quickly shuffles much further out, then leads the trio back and forth between this progressive jazz stratosphere and a more earthy, wanton Crescent City funk stomp.

The Velocity Trio's take on "Freedom Jazz Dance" sounds naturally its own, as if it was its tune and not written by Eddie Harris. Harris would like this version: Segundo and Stanley shake and stir the rhythm as Rollins' trombone makes pleasantly light work of this funky, muscular jazz classic to transform his inspiration into original and inventive music—perhaps the ultimate tribute to the iconoclastic, quixotic Harris.

Track Listing: Samba Galactica; Emergence; Everything Is Mind; Ujamma; Contemplation; The Other Side; Big Chill; Lightworker; Freedom Jazz Dance; Illuminous; The 11th Gate.

Personnel: Dennis Rollins: trombone, electronics; Ross Stanley: Hammond organ; Pedro Segundo: drums, percussion.

Title: The 11th Gate | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Motema Music

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