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Glasgow Jazz Festival 2011

Recital Room, City Halls, Thursday 30th June

If I’d one criticism of this concert by Dennis Rollins’ Velocity Trio, it would simply be that the Recital Room, even set out cabaret style with tables and chairs, was too formal for it. While there was plenty of serious improvisation on display, this was also a gig that reminded us that top-quality jazz can also be about hitting a good downhome groove.

What was on offer was essentially a reinvention of the classic tenor, organ and drums trio, with Rollins’ trombone taking the place of the the saxophone. It wasn’t a straightforward rehash of an earlier style, though: at times Rollins made subtle use of electronics and pedals to split tones and add echo, and the set list certainly wasn’t conservative.

Most of the tunes were written by Rollins himself, with the standouts including a gorgeous ballad called “The Other Side”, and a piece called “The Big Chill” which included enough dramatic pauses and false endings to ensure that the audience was slightly uncertain when the real ending arrived. The choice of covers was highly inventive, with an extended (and non-reggae) version of Bob Marley’s “Jamming” in the first half, and an unlikely but highly effective treatment of Pink Floyd’s “Money” in the second. Rollins didn’t announce it, he simply started parping out the bass riff at the lower end of his horn, leaving us just enough time to be surprised by the choice of song before we realised that it did work very well as jazz. The one number from the standard jazz repertoire was Eddie Harris’s “Freedom Jazz Dance”, which closed the evening.

Ross Stanley was excellent on organ, whether playing accompaniments or soloing, but because he was sitting quietly behind a keyboard at the side of the stage, he didn’t catch the eye as much as the nattily-dressed Rollins, pacing around centre stage, or the highly-theatrical drummer Pedro Segunde Pedro Segundo. Segundo liked to explore the extremes of volume you can get from a drumkit: at times he played quietly and delicately, at others he hit the drums so hard that he leapt up from his seat.

The trio’s debut album (possibly to be called Hot to Trot?) is due out in November. Presumably they’ll be touring to promote it. If so, it would be great if someone could bring them back to Glasgow, ideally to play a venue with a more laidback atmosphere. Musically I thought this evening had everything: good material, fine playing, and a funky feelgood mood. Unfortunately the Recital Room just wasn’t the right venue for this type of music. (But it works for some types of jazz: it was probably fine for the Warren Vaché – Brian Kellock duo later that evening).