Monday, 28 September 2015

"Beauty In All The Right Places": QCBA [Interview]

‘Beauty In Quiet Places’ marks the second album from Quentin Collins and Brandon Allen’s passion project, QCBA, released this year through Ubuntu Music.

Headed up by “the hardest hitting trumpet/sax frontline in the business”, trumpeter, Quentin Collins, and saxophonist, Brandon Allen, round out their quartet with friends and long-term collaborators Ross Stanley on Hammond organ and Enzo Zirilli on drums.  The quartet boastfully showcase their unique blend of soulful jazz, with elegant tinges of Brazilian stylings, all respectfully nodding to the Greats, while still injecting enough of their own talents and charisma throughout to make an end-product that is quintessentially QCBA.

The recording of the album seems to serve as a testament to the style and energy fans can expect from the band's live shows, which would be quite the journey: from the Samba-esque 'Fuerteventura', the exquisite ballad of 'Oscar's Lullaby' or the uptempo swing of 'Modal Tranesition', which pays homage to iconic saxophonists, Joe Henderson and John Coltrane.

The album is short on outside guests but the concept of collaboration is certainly not new to Collins and Allen: both having chalked up performances with Omar, Paloma Faith, Dennis Rollins and perhaps most famously, The Kyle Eastwood Band.  For album hardcopy fans, you'll be treated to a special message amidst the inlay card from the aforementioned, Kyle Eastwood, which serves as an excellent note of encouragement and endorsement.

Ubuntu Music is as much the story here as the new album release...  Founded by Martin Hummel and Collins (the word itself is an ancient African word meaning “I am because we are”), Ubuntu’s ethos is about “bringing quality, accessible jazz and related music genres to increasingly wider audiences”.  And they’re doing that.  Really well.  ‘Beauty In Quiet Places’ is actually preceded this year by the release of Brazilian vocalist Noemi Nuti, and her beauteous album, ‘Nice To Meet You’.  With the new QCBA release, Ubuntu are fulfilling their promise and listeners will eagerly await much, much more from this exciting new label.

In the meanwhile, however, there is the fantastic new release awaiting your attention and we're thrilled to have secured time with Quentin Collins to discuss 'Beauty In Quiet Places', Ubuntu Music and what's next for QCBA...

IMRAN MIRZA: Who have been some of the biggest influences in shaping the QCBA sound?
QUENTIN COLLINS: We are all fans of the 1960s Blue Note/Atlantic/Impulse sound of artists like Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, John Coltrane.  The Larry Young album 'Unity' is the same lineup and was a formative influence when deciding the instrumentation of QCBA.

How did the two of you meet and progress to forming the group?
Brandon and I met approx 15 years ago when he first arrived on the London scene from Perth in Australia.  We have always had a musical and personal affinity.  After spending a few years playing together in various lineups as sidemen we decided to form our own group and do things "our way" musically speaking.  We took a couple of years to find the right guys for the project, drummers always being the hardest to find.  We had known Ross Stanley for a while and once we met Enzo around 2008 we knew we had the lineup we wanted.  The organ band really started around that time whilst both Brandon and I had residencies in a great venue, now defunct, in SOHO called "The Black Gardenia".  The ceiling was too small for a double bass so Ross started bringing his organ instead.  The rest is history!

How does the music from 'Beauty In Quiet Places' differ from its predecessor, 'What's It Gonna Be?' 
I would say the music on 'Beauty...' is an extension of what we wrote/performed on the previous record but reflects our greater musical maturity now.  There is a greater exploration of different moods and grooves on the new record.

Can you talk a little about what went into making 'Beauty In Quiet Places'?
We wrote the material and took it on the road, then recorded it pretty much exactly as we had been performing it live, so you get a real sense of what a QCBA gig sounds like when you hear the album.  There are no guests on this record, we wanted listeners to get a sense of what the quartet can do by itself.

How does the process of writing and producing new music work for you?
I tend to get an idea come to me from out of nowhere, sit at the piano - which was my first instrument and a place where I still spend a lot of time - to extend the idea and work out the finer details of the harmony etc.  When I force ideas out they don't tend to be so good, so it's important to try and remember the ones that come to you!

Congratulations on the release of Noemi Nuti's album earlier this year: how did Noemi initially align with the label?
Thank you very much!  Noemi was someone I met through Andrew McCormack, who co-wrote some of her material, and we quickly became good friends and musical associates.  I think Andrew may have been the one to suggest me as producer for her record.  Ubuntu Music was an idea I had with Martin Hummel from Ubuntu Management as a vehicle to release Noemi's music in the best way that we could, after we had been let down by a couple of labels.  It's worked out very well, Noemi is a focused and talented artist and I believe she has a big future ahead of her.

Who would be a dream collaborator for you to record or perform live with? 
There are many current artists I'd love to collaborate with.  I think amongst many others on the list would be Joe Lovano, Dianne Reeves, Esperanza Spalding, Herbie Hancock and Pat Metheny, James Taylor and Sting.  I see no reason why at least a couple of these shouldn't become a reality, here's hoping anyway!

Have you given any thoughts as to what a follow-up album from QCBA would sound like? 
We have a long history of collaborating with artists like Omar, Paloma Faith and Liane Carroll.  I'd love to make a record with just some of the musicians we have been lucky enough to work with, the music reflecting a mixture between our sound and theirs. Some new collaborations too.  This really excites me as the next project for QCBA.  I think sonically we aim to become a little more concise harmonically.

For more from QCBA, Noemi Nuti and Ubuntu Music, please visit

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