Road Warrior is the long awaited follow-up to his 2015 recording with Brandon Allen, as QCBA, Beauty In Quiet Places – reviewed here.
Not that Quentin Collins has been slacking off. Over the intervening period he has toured extensively with Kyle Eastwood, played with he is own electric band, filled the mighty shoes of Chet Baker to commemorate the launch of Live In London, and worked hard with Martin Hummell to establish Ubuntu Music, a London-based record label, as a force to be reckoned with.
If the QBCA project has a sixties, soul jazz vibe, courtesy or organ player Ross Stanley, Road Warrior has more of a hard bop feel, reminiscent of early 1960s Jazz Messengers, featuring Lee Morgan, or the fine Blue Note albums of Freddie Hubbard.
That NY vibe is further enhanced by a top-class American rhythm section. Quentin Collins first encountered the superb pianist Dan Zimmer while on tour with Kyle Eastwood. Nimmer was influenced by Wynton Kelly, amongst others, and has played regularly with Wynton Marsalis, both on a standalone basis, and as part of Jazz At The Lincoln Centre. Nimmer recommended drummer Willie Jones III, whilst bass player Joe Sanders, whose distinctive tone graces the album, and was also at high school with Nimmer.
The horn section, by contrast, is British. Alto saxophonist Tom Harrison was supposed to be part of the sextet, but was injured before the recording session, and replaced by Meliana Gillard, whilst Leo Richardson – whose solo debut was produced by Collins – joins on tenor.
The compositions are divided evenly between Collins and Harrison. The title track is one of the many highlights, a simple riff by Nimmer giving way to some superb interplay between Collins and the two saxophonists. The bandleader takes the first solo, before handing over to Richardson, who impresses, as always, and then Dan Nimmer, who delivers a phenomenal solo. Take a listen here.
The knotty changes of Float, Flitter, Flutter, demonstrate the fine support work of bass player Joe Sanders, who Collins describes as a major driving force. Do You Know The Way is a good, old-fashioned slab of hard bop, and a showcase for the leader’s exceptional blowing.
Look Ahead (What Do You See) is a another favourite. The tune was inspired by a thought-provoking conversation between Collins and his ten year-old son, and if the tune is anything to go by, the two of them feel optimistic about what the future holds. Nimmer switches to Fender Rhodes here, lending the track a warm, soulful feel. Lovely stuff!
The delicate ballad, Jasmine Breeze, another composition by Harrison, is also gorgeous. Quentin Collins reveals the softer side to his playing, supported by delicate percussion from Willie Jones III. There’s also a delightful solo by bass player, Joe Sanders, which demonstrates his fine phrasing.
The Hill is a showcase for pianist Dan Nimmer, and was written with him in mind by Tom Harrison, who also attributes his mentor’s mentor, Art Blakey, again emphasizing that Messengers connection.
The album’s only cover, Oh! Look At Me Now, brings the album to a fitting close, with some fine ensemble playing.
This is an excellent album, that impresses from the outset, and reveals new layers on each listen.