Dennis Rollins Velocity Trio: The 11th Gate

Trombone-organ-drums usher in a new spiritual age, or at least a pleasant 45 minutes.

Dennis Rollins Velocity Trio

The 11th Gate

Label: Motéma
US Release Date: 2012-01-10
UK Release Date: 2011-11-14
Label website
Artist website

Dennis Rollins radiates positive vibes with his Velocity Trio, an unusual trombone-organ-drums combo whose first album The 11th Gate is out on Motéma Music. For one thing, Rollins writes to please -- he composes memorable heads informed by funk and Latin genres, with enough melodic integrity to please jazz purists. Then there’s his playing. Rollins plays his trombone with a beautiful burnished tone, bouncing and swooping into his notes on little catenaries of sound, reaching out to listeners with a grin and a handshake. He’s also got an Aquarian numerological thing going on. Motéma had the spiritual wisdom to release The 11th Gate on 11/11/11, the day Rollins turned 47, and you’ll notice that four plus seven equals 11. (They released it digitally, that is; the physical CD had to wait until January.) Naturally the trio has included 11 tracks here, the better to usher in Rollins’s “universal paradigm shift, an emergence into our authentic selves”.

My authentic self tells me they had to pad this album to reach 11 tracks. Hammond organist Ross Stanley and drummer Pedro Segundo each get a short solo interlude; Rollins takes two of those, plus a multitracked trombone chorale that closes the album solemnly but not very memorably. That leaves six proper songs, still a good length for a jazz album, to show off this band’s impressive chops and interplay.

Opening song “Samba Galactica” punches out of the speakers with a tricky rhythm, Segundo skittering around the beats while Rollins uses some electronic device to harmonize with himself. The apparently ambidextrous Stanley handles the bassline with his left hand; his right hand either harmonizes closely with Rollins’s trombone, plays remarkably fluid solos, or stretches out on thick washes of sound that make you say, “Ooh, Hammond organ!”

The stop-time “Emergence” has been billed as a tribute to organist Larry Young, and its open chords and chromatic progressions evoke Young’s playing on Tony Williams’s “Emergency”. Stanley’s right hand does some adventurous soloing here and Rollins approves, at one point purring like a trombone kitten. “Ujamma” switches between a straightforward blues feel and a beat-stretching head. Stanley plays around with some cool metallic tone colors, and the whole thing swells to a magnificent peak about three minutes in.

Requisite slow song “The Other Side” is a bossa nova tribute to Rollins’s opulent sound. “The Big Chill” moves between funk and swing; Rollins breaks out the wah wah, and Stanley’s left hand adapts the head into a complicated bass ostinato. The trio also plays a groovy cover of Eddie Harris’s “Freedom Jazz Dance”, at times breaking down the meter so confidently they seem to have a psychic connection.

This is all fine, accomplished stuff, but The 11th Gate is ultimately too tidy to set anyone’s world on fire. Solos are inventive but never outlandish; the chord changes go to unexpected places, but they never astonish. The album sounds immaculate, and you get the sense these guys knew what they were doing every step of the way. They’ve made a solid and professional straight-ahead jazz record. That’s not exactly a universal paradigm shift, but it’ll at least keep you awake until your enlightenment kicks in.






Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.


IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.


Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.


NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.


The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.


PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.