Big Night Out kicks off with a growling swinger as shortMAN recounts the history of jazz delivered in a staccato ‘if you go down to the woods today’ style — and the evening has got off to a fine start
Dennis Rollins has been a fixture on the Black British jazz scene since the days of The Jazz Warriors and he has played with a seemingly infinite number of spin off groups as well as pop stars. He may very well be the best-dressed man in jazz too (admittedly this has been an uncompetitive field since the Blue Note heydays of the fifties and sixties).
Big Night Out is joyful, funky and accessible. It’s one of the few recent British jazz albums that you could give to a Jools Holland fan and expect them to like it, while those of more refined tastes will dig its witty take on jazz flavours old and new. The odd splash of drum ‘n’ bass and lashings of funk do this record no harm at all either.
The debt to the JBs is spelled out on the stand-out track ‘Soul’d Out (For Fred)’ — presumably the Fred in the title is the main man himself Fred Wesley and this track has all the wah wah funk feeling of the best of the founding fathers of funk.
Rollins wrote all of the pieces on the album with the exception of the Isley Brothers’ ‘Love the One You’re With’. On first listening, the instrumental treatment of this soul classic struck me as a little backgroundy but on further listenings the track has grown on me more and more. Its upbeat nature eventually wears your cynical side down until you are bouncing around with a stupid grin on your face.
A touch of Sly can be detected on the clubby ‘On Da Floor’, this time featuring Rollins on trombone, keyboards, programming and vocals no less. ‘Head Rush’ is where electric Miles meets drum ‘n’ bass on the darkest track of the album, showing that Rollins has more than a few tricks up his sleeve.
Jazz-funk has long been out of fashion but in Badbone’s hands the original goodtime music has a fresh lease of life and a few more ingredients in the recipe.
Dennis Rollins’ Badbone & Co – Big Night Out is released on Raestar Records, September 10 and the man himself is currently on tour in the UK.