REVIEW: Dennis Rollins & the Nick Dewhurst Band at the George Hotel, Lichfield

Dennis Rollins with the Nick Dewhurst Band
Photo credit: © John Watson/
Dennis Rollins & the Nick Dewhurst Band
(George Hotel, Lichfield, 7 March 2018. Review and photos by John Watson)

Trombonist Dennis Rollins brought inspiration when he came to Lichfield 10 years ago to appear in the cathedral city’s Blues And Jazz Festival and to take part in workshops and performances with the local Netherstowe School Big Band.

Among the young musicians in that band was a promising teenage trumpeter, Nick Dewhurst, and Dennis’s enthusiasm and creative insights helped to spark Nick’s determination to make music his life.
The trumpeter, who – unusually – doubles on guitar, has become a driving force in the Staffordshire city’s music scene, establishing a series of pub gigs featuring his own band and rising stars of the Midlands scene, recording his first album (Suspect In You) with many of his own compositions, performing regularly with regional big bands, and running a lively community big band, Blast Off.

Nick’s latest venture features his band with visiting star players, and he Dennis were reunited on Wednesday in a packed concert at the city’s George Hotel. “It’s so great to be playing with Nick again after all these years,” said Dennis. “And he wrote a song for me!”

The tune, penned for the reunion, was simply called One For Dennis, played as the climax of a gig full of exuberant, intense and solidly-driven playing.

Dennis Rollins with Nick Dewhurst and Tom Moore in the background.
Photo credit: © John Watson/
Award-winning Dennis – born in the Black Country borough of Wednesbury, raised in Yorkshire – is celebrated for the infectious joy of his playing, his  blending of jazz and funk, and for his expert use of electronics to expand the palette of sounds from the trombone. There’s a wonderful sense of lightness in his facility on the horn, a gorgeous, bright tone, and superb control. When he taps into electronic effects – for many years a Rollins speciality – the musical colours take on a stunning intensity.

His  work with his groups Badbone & Co and the Velocity Trio – both of which have won Band Of The Year awards – and with Maceo Parker and a host of bands including The Jazz Warriors, plus pop acts including Jamiroiquai and Blur, has won widespread praise.

With Nick’s band – Callum Roxburgh, tenor; Tom Lindsay, electric piano; Tom Moore, bass; and Carl Hemingsley, drums – Dennis established a funky mood for the show with Stevie Wonder’s I Wish, followed by a lovely arrangement by Nick of Kenny Dorham’s Lotus Blossom.

There were strong versions of Dennis’s own furiously funky Shake It Down, and Nick’s new piece Bird Street Blues, featuring a firecracker solo from the trumpeter.

In contrast to the funky ensembles, a duet version of Duke Ellington’s In A Sentimental Mood by Rollins and Lindsay – who switched to synthesiser – was a masterly demonstration of how electronics, experty used, can expand human expression. It will stay in the memory for a very long time.

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