UK Trombonist gets the funk out...
Peter Marsh 2003-05-08
Witha few exceptions, the UK hasn't really got much of a track record when it comes to producing great trombonists (and most of those are of a certain vintage now). Dennis Rollins is of a newer breed, and has been associated with the Jazz Warriors as well as Gary Crosby's Jazz Jamaica project. He's a fine player, able to manipulate the ungainly plumbing of the trombone with an easy grace and a fat, rounded tone.
Rollins' Badbone project have been wearing out the odd pair of dancing shoes up and down the country with their live sets. Like James Blood Ulmer, Badbone believe that while Jazz is the teacher, Funk is the preacher, dispensing booty shaking grooves topped off with questing improvisation. Perhaps inevitably some of the excitement the band generate onstage has dissipated in the glare of the recording studio lighting; the sound seems to lack the necessary punch.
Turning the volume up goes someway to rectifying this and brings out some of Badbone's sparkle. The funkier tunes are all delivered with a precision and drive that makes you itch to hear them in a live setting. Rollins and keyboardist Benet Mclean (a valuable presence in Kevin Haynes' curent band) offer concise, sometimes witty solos (I'm sure I caught quotes from the Magic Roundabout theme as well as "A Love Supreme"), while Perry Melius and Peter Martin's rhythm section work is a bit more compromised by the somewhat clinical production. The exception to this is the closing "Act Like You Know", where squelchy bass synth and bumptious drums unite to create a ridiculously infectious groove.
Other pieces find Rollins in more reflective or playful mood; the short "Interlude - Forever" is quite lovely, as is "Everlasting", which has a touch of the Stevie Wonder about it. Rollins is beautifully expressive here, and shows off his mellifluous chops on "Soul Journey" (a feature for overdubbed trombones).
I could have done without the vocal track ("So Real") and Rollins' attempt fo find something interesting to do with Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" fails miserably. Programme these two out and you have the makings of a decent album (on an interesting new label), but meanwhile for the full story catch them live....