Quentin Collins Sextet ‘Road Warrior’ LP/CD (Ubuntu Music) 4/5

Chucho Valdes
‘Road Warrior’ is the latest album from the Quentin Collins Sextet and it’s a swinging sensation. Unflinching in confronting a larger Jazz format with a contemporary outlook; it’s soulful, suave and sophisticated. The album’s name is a result of trumpeter Quentin’s life as a touring musician with Kyle Eastwood’s band, along with his own project QC/BA (co-lead by the equally in-demand tenor saxophonist Brandon Allen). However, 2019 sees Quentin take the spotlight again with his first album as sole leader since 2007’s much-acclaimed debut release ‘If Not Now, Then When?’. For ‘Road Warrior’, Quentin had the music mixed by the composer, drummer and producer Troy Miller, who has worked with the likes of Laura Mvula, Gregory Porter and Amy Winehouse to name a few.

Quentin’s sizzling ensemble consists of Wynton Marsalis’ pianist Dan Nimmer, double bassist Joe Sanders, drummer Willie Jones III, tenor saxophonist Leo Richardson, alto saxophonist Meilana Gillard, and on two tracks Jean Toussaint appears on sax as well as producing the album.

It’s ambitious yet familiar on ‘Look Ahead (What Do You See)’ where a soulful Quincy Jones-type band sound skips along with joyful percussion and staccato horns. It may be distinct from the three opening tracks with their swinging Bebop sound, but it’s just as vibrant. On ‘The Hill’ the band zips along with a hint of Latin spice. It’s a simple track yet it swings with verve. Drummer and bassist lock in tight, giving space for Nimmer to lead the way with a gliding piano solo.
‘El Farolito’ is an energetic yet restrained composition; the chord changes are relaxed but the hectic tempo upheld by Willie Jones III gives enough authority to keep the others on their toes. Meilana’s fluid legato and sweeping arpeggios on alto ensure interest is carried through the improvised sections.
We see the sextet’s sentimental side on ‘Wider Horizons’; the mood is delicate as Willie’s soft cymbal tapping stitches together this ballad’s varied components. Quentin’s controlled melody has a mellowness to its tone, perhaps that of the flugelhorn – the similar instrument to the trumpet which Quentin also plays.
The album ends in a sultry fashion with ‘Oh! Look At Me Now’. This simmering, pleasingly seedy number plays out with a blues feel which grooves with zest. The use of sax and trumpet as respondents to one another helps the tune spark a humorous narrative.

Fred Neighbour