Music

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
Amazon
iTunes

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.

6

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image