Dennis Rollins' Velocity Trio is headlining Lancaster Jazz Festival 2014 on Saturday 20th September. Tickets available here.
I make a point of asking this of everyone I talk to, who would you say has influenced you and your playing over the years to the greatest extent?
Besides the trombone masters such as Kid Ory, Miff Moles, Jack Teagarden, Vic Dickenson, Frank Rosolino, Raul De Souza, Fred Wesley, my greatest influences come from my contemporaries, musicians/ bandleaders in the community I've had the pleasure of working with over the many years (Courtney Pine, Maceo Parker, Chris McGregor, Cleveland Watkiss, Tony Remy, Steve Williamson, Mark Nightingale, Byron Wallen and many more) Their passion for this music is still a great source of inspiration.
If you could put how you play into words how would you describe your thoughts and processes?
Very early on I was taught to pay close attention to the timbre of the instrument, and to really listen to the sound I was making with it. Another point to develop was the definition of articulation, the clarity in which I 'spoke' with the instrument. I still try and see how many different expressions/ emotions I can extract out of one note. When improvising It's really important for the listener to get a clear picture of your feelings and ideas, it takes practise.
Did you come from a musical background?
No I didn't. Despite that, I grew up in a household that produced three musicians, myself and my brothers Winston a freelance session musician (who plays with Jules Holland Big Band amongst others ) and Erroll, a session drummer. A commonly asked question I get is: "Are you related to Sonny Rollins?" If I had a pound for every time...
What sort of musical setting do you feel most comfortable? E.g big bands or more intimate groups like a trio/quartet
I reached a point where I feel at ease in any jazz inspired setting. Because I've had the fortune to perform with bands in the styles of Columbian Salsa to Bossa Nova, straight ahead jazz to traditional swing, avant garde to contemporary big band, my understanding of the nuances allows me to relax in the performance.
Your current trio features yourself on trombone plus organ and drums; this is quite an unusual line up, could you tell us a little bit about what you aim for and how it all gels musically?
With Velocity Trio our aim is to make people laugh and cry, to feel hungry (for the music) and to feel satisfied when we've finished. You could say we try to express 'Drama In Music'
I feel it works because of our understanding of the organ trio format coupled with what we're all able to bring to the table.
Many times I simply stand in awe of the sound Ross (Stanley) and Pedro (Segundo) produce. Within VelocityTrio I hope the listener hears tradition and progression.
Have you got any routines or methods for when you compose and could you give us an insight into your new album?
Previously, I've enjoyed writing alone for the trio. This allowed me to establish the concept and sound. The first album (The 11th Gate) expressed my ideas but opened me up to the true nature of the Hammond organ. With guidance from Ross as to the harmonic workings, a lot of my original scores were stripped down to give clarity in sound and to allow the Hammond to do its thing, which is create wonderful subtle overtones behind any basic chord being played.
Dennis Rollins was talking to Luke Adams, Youth Journalist in Residence at LJF2014