RNCM Big Band with Dennis Rollins (trombone)

(photo credit: Addictive TV)

Director: Iain Dixon

About tonight’s concert

When I began my role, back in 2019, I had a conversation with Dennis Rollins about having him come and guest with the RNCM Big Band. Keen to be involved, Dennis was hoping his 2011 Velocity Trio music might be the focus for our collaboration, but with none of the pieces scored for large ensemble at that point, the idea had to reluctantly go back on the shelf, neither of us having the time available to undertake that huge task.

In 2023 we now have the RNCM Big Band under Iain Dixon‘s direction, and once again thoughts turned to Dennis, Iain deciding it must be possible to finally have The Velocity Trio album, ‘The 11th Gate’ scaled up to the big band format. This has entailed a mammoth effort on Iain’s part, doing the lion’s share of the arranging, though it has also given an opportunity for RNCM students to help and get involved. This is a particularly encouraging development and so, tonight you’ll hear 3rd year Composition student Ted Ford‘s arrangement, ‘Emergence’, and 4th year Saxophone student, Jasmine Brown‘s arrangement of ‘Samba Galactica’.

The rhythmic vitality and agility of Dennis’s trio has given the band many wonderful challenges to tackle, and in rehearsal these pieces have come to life, capturing the grooves, the time and tempo changes, the sometimes audacious harmonic palette, and something of Dennis’s huge-hearted spirit too.

It has been truly inspirational to hear the students dig deep and bring this all together in the rehearsal phase, so it gives me immense pride and pleasure to know that they will now be able to share the fruits of it all, with Dennis, and with you tonight.

Written by Steve Berry
RNCM Head of Jazz & Improvisation

Tonight’s programme

Payback opens the show from Dennis Rollins’ album Badbone and is outright funk.

The rest of the music is drawn from the album The 11th Gate. The pieces take one of two forms, Preludes and full compositions.

Illuminous is a Prelude which was born out of a bluesy improvised cadenza, leading into The Big Chill, which although big in scope is far from chilled…

The Prelude Nothing is Mine is a reimagining of Dennis’s Everything is Mind, this then leading into Ujamma. It continues the intriguing cross rhythm used in a new way. Both of these arrangements contributed by Steve Berry.

Samba Galactica is the first arrangement by one of our talented students, Jasmine Brown. The piece is exciting and rhythmically complex with, as always, an infectious groove.

The first half finishes with another Prelude which has grown into a piece in it’s own right – Lightworker. The uplifting title is reflected in this all out swinger.

The second half starts with Contemplation, with the drums and percussion featured in a more reflective role. This leads directly into the second of our student arrangements, this time by 3rd year composition student Ted Ford. Emergence is an exciting and upbeat swing tour de force.

The title track The 11th Gate has a New Orleans Brass Band feel, with other grooves weaved into the texture.

This leads into The Other Side, a funk ballad with a classic feel.

To conclude the concert, Dennis’s ever shifting realisation of Freedom Jazz Dance (the classic jazz standard by Eddie Harris) is preceded by a largely improvised, moody introduction.

Written by Iain Dixon

Biographies and Personnel

About Dennis Rollins

A passionate performer and educator, British trombone player Dennis Rollins MBE has established a reputation as an artist of excellence, lending his unique and stylish talents to some of this country’s (and indeed the world’s) top jazz and pop personalities such as Courtney Pine, Maceo Parker, Jamiroquai, US3, The Brand New Heavies, Blur, Monty Alexander, Pee Wee Ellis and Jean Toussaint, amongst others.

As a bandleader, in 2006 his jazz/funk outfit Badbone & Co won a prestigious BBC Jazz Award in the Best Band category. In the following year he picked up both Trombonist of the Year at the British Jazz Awards and Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Awards. Dennis was nominated twice in the 2008 Parliamentary Jazz Awards for Jazz Musician of the Year and for Jazz Education; he won the latter.

Other awards include British Trombone Society (BTS) Player of the year Award 2013 and Jazz Yorkshire Award 2012 Best Band for his band Velocity Trio.

About Iain Dixon

Iain began his professional career with the BBC Big Band, where he stayed for eight years before becoming a freelance player on the London music scene.

He has played as a member of UK jazz groups led by Julian Arguelles, Dave Green, Mike Walker, Alan Barnes, Dave Newton, Nikki Iles, Gwilym Simcock, Charlie Watts, as well as leading his own bands.

As a session player, Iain has appeared on many album recordings with artists such as Joni Mitchell, Primal Scream, Simply Red, Mark Hollis and The Spice Girls, and has been a featured soloist on numerous film soundtracks including The Talented Mr. Ripley and Bright Young Things. Following a UK tour with the Michael Brecker / Gil Goldstein Quindectet, Iain was invited to record Wide Angles album in New York in 2003.

As a member of Bryan Ferry’s band for over ten years, Iain has completed three world tours and numerous album recordings. He currently teaches jazz improvisation at Chetham’s School of Music & the RNCM.

The RNCM Big Band

Jasmine Brown (alto)
Nick Rushworth (alto)
Fred Donlon-Mansbridge (tenor)
Conor Parker-Delves (tenor)
Matthew Haworth (bari)

Tristan Boldy / Alex Browne (bmp)
Will Bird
Grace Harman
Honor Farley

Ross McDonnell
Ben Moss
Joe Heartfield
Barney Shaw
Henry Kay (bass)

Luca Den Hollander

Tyzer McAllister

Maria Rocha
Reuben Savage

Daniel Orchard

Oscar Williams

Louis Reilly