"Brandon Allen is arguably the most exciting tenor player in Britain today. His phrasing is unashamedly emotional, soaked in the blues tradition."
Tony Hall (JAZZWISE)
"What a fitting and cracking start to the 10th Scarborough Jazz Festival from the fresh, tight, swinging, professional Quentin Collins/Brandon Allen Quartet.The packed audience loved it!"
Review by Fran Hardcastle( London Jazz Blogspot)- Friday 1st October 2010.
Venturing into Shoreditch in the pouring rain late on a Friday night turned out to be a worthy decision.
Arriving just in time to catch the end of the house band’s first set at the opulent Last Days of Decadence, I was immediately floored by the driving beast of a drummer that was Pedro Segundo, standing in for Enzo Zirilli. Quentin Collins (trumpet) and Brandon Allen (tenor sax) with Ross Stanley (organ) make up the rest of a quartet whom from first impressions might be likened to a heavier Nicola Conte set-up, particularly in the Collins original, ‘No Way Jose’, written for an errant South American cousin. The bebop stylings over a compelling latin groove were a perfect vehicle for Brandon Allen’s powerful sound.
The basement room is a standing one, always a favourite with me at gigs, despite the inevitable aching dancing feet. It's a compact space, but there was still a comfortable amount of oxygen for the painfully fashionable punters.
Paloma Faith, introduced as a ‘local girl made good’ by friend Collins, started her set by announcing “this is me doing something low pressure – so if I make a mistake - f*** it”. She may have at certain points been reaching out of her comfort zone, but if she did feel uncomfortable, she hid it with style.
The first chart ‘Lets Get Lost’ showed a singer that could give Little Voice a run for her money, her voice soaked in inflections of Billie, bits of Dinah and an almost Eartha Kitt drawl. Quentin Collin’s solo showed a lovely smooth sound. The doffed cap to Billie Holiday was particularly noticeable in a great arrangement of Good Morning Heartache, set up with a tasty groove by Ross Stanley on organ. Stanley really shone on his long introduction to Black Coffee, worthy of a Delta gospel church.
Faith’s signature tune ‘At Last’ brought a taste of her burlesque background, stood on top a monitor, all sensual arm movements and expressive features. It also revealed a glimpse of her natural voice, a rich pure delight. But Faith truly excelled in the funkier songs of the set, such as the last song of the night, a sparkling, cheeky rendition of Candi Staton’s I’d Rather Be An Old Man.
On thanking her band, Faith described them as ‘some of the best musicians in London’. From the taster I got, she could be right.
Review by Dave Gelly(The Observer)- 1st May 2011
Trumpet, tenor saxophone, organ and drums? Must be retro hard-bop in the classic Blue Note mould. Er, not exactly. Collins certainly plays bright, crackling trumpet and Allen's tenor is declamatory in the grand manner, but there's a restlessness about this band's music that defies expectations. Instead of grooving comfortably along, the drums (Enzo Zirilli) chatter away busily and the organ (Ross Stanley) produces sudden changes of register and great washes of harmonic colour. The compositions, Collins's especially, keep you guessing, too. It's disconcerting but wonderfully energising, once you get over the surprise.
The Quentin Collins/Brandon Allen Quartet - What's It Gonna Be?
(Sunlightsquare Records SUNCD010, CD Review by Chris Parker)
From its hard-driving opener (tenor player Brandon Allen's What's It Gonna Be? to its infectiously lively closer (drummer Enzo Zirilli's mix of 'Tea for Two' with an almost 'Sidewinder'-ish shuffle rhythm, 'Teeth for Tooth'), this album harks back to the heyday of hard bop, recalling not only the Lee Morgan or Freddie Hubbard albums so beloved of co-leader, trumpeter Quentin Collins, but also (courtesy of Ross Stanley's evocative organ sound) the classic albums of Jimmy Smith and his ilk.
All its tracks except a radio-friendly visit to Stevie Wonder's 'Smile Please', sung by Natalie Williams, are in-band originals intelligently programmed to move between bustling swagger and moody slower pieces, but whether they're rattling through the former or brooding through the latter, the quartet has a breezy vigour and an unfussy interactive ease that can't fail to impress.
Collins is a refreshingly straightforward player, blazing and flaring on open trumpet, subtly noodling through a mute, or crooning through his flugelhorn as appropriate; Allen is a perfect frontline partner, his rich, powerful sound enabling him to steam through up-tempo numbers and channel tenderness through quieter ones; the rhythm section (buoyed by Stanley's deft bass pedals and sparked by Zirilli's crisply assertive drumming) bristles with disciplined authority – overall, this is an unequivocally enjoyable, immediately accessible but consistently musicianly album.
THE QUENTIN COLLINS/BRANDON ALLEN QUARTET
What's It Gonna Be?
This talented quartet get the full five stars, not only for performing brilliantly here but also for playing the type of jazz few can master - namely bright, tuneful neo-bop originals that swing from start to finish. Confident and cosmopolitan, Aussie tenorman Allen, Italian drummer Enzo Zirilli and two Brits, trumpeter Collins and Hammond organist Ross Stanley, make guest trombonist Trevor Mires and singer Natalie Williams feel completely at home. The co-leaders evoke their Blue Note heroes - Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Hank Mobley, Sonny Rollins - without copying a single lick, and the rhythm section is as tight as Sir Alex Ferguson's lips whenever Ryan Giggs is mentioned.
Interesting melodies and well-crafted solos over a swinging organ-and-drums rhythm section quickly warmed up the Hideaway audience on a chilly winter evening last Friday. Trumpeter Quentin Collins and tenor saxophonist Brandon Allen share inspiration in the glory days of hard bop and the music of Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley and its other great proponents but, while they bring its values to their own quartet, this is no mere tribute band. Their music is all original and their two opening numbers, the title track of their current album ‘What’s It Gonna Be?’ and ‘No Way José’ highlighted the writing talents of both co-leaders. Each of their songs has a distinctive character, often long-form and gradually unfolding with several sections and interludes between solos, punctuated with effective rhythmic kicks. Both pace their solos well, maintaining the audience’s attention with skilfully developed ideas and a sense of form. The virtuosity is there but never overstated. Drummer Enzo Zirilli plays a key role in all this, supporting and prodding, always swinging. Mike Gorman, substituting on organ for Ross Stanley, more than rose to this challenge with swinging bass lines and chords and several fine solos.
Guesting with the quartet in their second set was acoustic guitar master Antonio Forcione. His music is a far remove from hard bop, with influences ranging from flamenco to Balkan and from Arabic to American acoustic guitar styles, but he is thoroughly conversant with the jazz language. Opening with his dramatic ‘Africa’ and concluding with his joyful ‘Maurizio’s Party’, the contrasting character of this set rounded off an excellent evening of creative music.
– Charles Alexander
Brandon Allen Sextet at Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club 16th February, 2013.
Saturday nights at this club used to be the exclusive preserve of US superstars so it was with a jolt of patriotic pride that the management saw five Brits and one displaced Antipodean create a similar thrill on this famous bandstand. And make no mistake, theirs was a world-class performance.
For swing, invention and stunning instrumental technique, trombonist Mark Nightingale, altoist Nigel Hitchcock and Aussie tenorist Allen completed a front line that Art Blakey would have branded “the baddest cats in town”. Likewise, pianist Ross Stanley, bassist Sam Burgess and drummer Ian Thomas. Nightingale was amazing. His slide-trombone lines were executed more cleanly and speedily than most trumpeters could manage, and Hitchcock’s range and fluency were phenomenal.
My solitary gripe concerned their poor microphone balance, which took a while to correct. When will engineers realise that afternoon sound-checks in empty clubs are a complete waste of time? And for such hypermodern players it was surprising to find such ancient material in their book. Stardust, Limehouse Blues and even Duke Ellington’s Black and Tan Fantasy were all dusted down but then as Duke used to say, it’s not whatcha play but the way thatcha play it.
- Jack Massarik (The Evening Standard) ****