Dennis Rollins

Trombonist Dennis Rollins likes to party. With his trademark funky licks, his charismatic stage presence and energetic populist manner he has become a major draw on the UK jazz circuit. But there’s more to Rollins than that, as he tirelessly devotes a lot of time to education in the process promoting the merits of his beloved trombone. On the eve of the release of his latest album Big Night Out Kevin Le Gendre talks to Dennis about his motivation, inspirations and why he thinks “jazz is the original urban music.” Dennis RollinsLast year the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music launched Sound Junction, an ambitious music education website. Along with a wealth of information on the history of many genres, the site featured three original compositions for analysis: ‘Where Will It Take You?’ by jazz musician Jason Yarde, ‘Emerging Dances’ by contemporary classical composer David Horne and ‘Moving Away’ by Tunde Jegede, an artist who creates unique African symphonic works. The site designers also commissioned remixes of the above but the brief was very challenging: each new interpretation had to feature elements of all three tracks. Various artists were called in to do the job: R&B producer C-Swing, rock musician Rob Solly and jazz artists, Cleveland Watkiss, Byron Wallen and Dennis Rollins. ‘Promise Land’ was what trombonist Rollins called his mix and it’s arguably one of the best pieces of cut ’n’ paste you may have never heard. Constructed entirely on Logic Pro 7, this florid yet focused sonic patchwork feels simultaneously composed and improvised, moving in tricky time signatures amid dense harmonies without ever sounding turgid. If metric unpredictability and solidity in the groove prove compatible, that’s because the original pieces, Rollins says, inspired this. “The difference between them was vast yet so beautiful. It was a challenge and daunting at first to see how you could mix it up but all I wanted to do was portray the drama in the music, entwine the beauty and the ugly,” he says, making an unforced reference to a most intriguing sentient juxtaposition, one that links anyone from Thelonious Monk and Marc Anthony Thompson to George Clinton and Andre 3000.

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