DENNIS ROLLINS VELOCITY TRIO AT STAPLEFORD GRANARY
Trombone, Hammond organ and drums. If anyone were to try and convince you this was the perfect combo for a fabulous evening of inventive music, it would be a hard sell. The trombone has overtones of the Salvation Army and as for the Hammond Organ it has a reputation (outside jazz cognoscenti) as a 70s– only instrument never heard after Procul Harem ‘s Whiter Shade of Pale floated off into its own smoky miasma and out of the mainstream of music fashion.
Dennis Rollins and his Velocity Trio remedy all that. Their instruments together have a chameleon quality. One moment they merge into a wall of astonishing sound that threatened to blow the walls outwards - another they become melodic and clear as their moving encore piece ‘The Rose’ an elegiac ballad with a haunting Celtic clarity testifies. It was written for this celebrated ensemble, full of warmth and nostalgia. It might have been cold outside, but as the compère promised, the jazz inside was red hot. Billed as high-energy it did not disappoint.
The Stapleford Granary was packed to the rafters with jazzers of all ages, for a sell–out concert. a range of devotees from teenagers to hip oldsters all rapt by the immersive inventiveness of Denis Rollins’ combo. It helps that he looks so cool playing his instrument. – almost reminiscent of those 50s groovy jazz masters- as do his off-siders. Yet unlike Miles, Thelonius and Chet he presents his extraordinary music with a delighted smile - there was a lot of good humour when playing, the creative drummer Pedro Segundo from Lisbon beamed as he shook the indefinable adjuncts of his massive drum kit to create some weird and hard-to-place sound interludes, - was that rain falling or sand shaking? Tricky to know with this imaginative performer. And on the Hammond organ Ross Stanley was hard at work. It’s electric, but not electronic so there’s plenty to do. Ross resembled a master mechanic, stretching, adjusting, calming, tuning his instrument – as well as actually playing it with great style and skill. This gig marked the group’s reunion after three years of full on musical diversion into other tributaries of the jazz world. The result was finely eclectic and clever. It did remind any listener that jazz isn’t just a nice noise played as you chat over a drink (though there’s nothing wrong with that) but an intellectual effort, a part of modern thinking like science, contemporary theatre or art-house film.
And what a place to do all three of these. The Stapleford Granary is gradually sinking into the cultural consciousness like an impressive movement of music. My first visit at night - it lights up like a South Bank soirée- figures glamorously gathered full length in the windows - from outside it has all the allure of a metropolitan milieu thanks to some skilful architecture. The acoustic is amazing; the lighting is heaven (and astonishing what can be achieved with only half a dozen versatile spots and a couple of larger fixed globes). Yet the entire building, recognized by the RIBA recent awards for its outstanding quality, does have a country feel, helped by the Douglas Fir flooring and local gault brick walls but has the authority of a proper concert hall even though the bar is improvised with basket -based donations for the drinks. The entire building feels as if it is about to take off into more ambitious larger bigger bolder dimensions in the future. On the Rollins concert basis- it can only be a tremendous direction.
The man himself emerged to say farewell and sign a few CDs afterwards, cool he may be but there is nothing to beat his direct Yorkshire warmth A night to remember.