Winston Rollins - Trombonist in Jools Holland's R&B Orchestra


Lars Mullen: 

We're back in the world of brass, to welcome a trombone player with an impressive CV. He's been in Aswad, Jamiroquai and The Brand New Heavies and you'll probably recognize him from the Jools Holland band. Let's welcome Winston Rollins.

Winston Rollins: Hi, everybody, how are you Lars?

Lars:  I'm good, I'm good. How are you?

Winston: Yeah, very well indeed, thank you.

Lars: Did you notice how I said  'trombone?'

Winston: Yes, I did and it's taking a long while to pronounce, "trombone", and not any other instrument. I think you better explain.

Lars: Well, it was a little while ago, I'll actually,  I will explain. We did an interview, um, all going well, right to the very end, you said "you called  
it a trumpet all the way through".  - I do apologize. 

Winston: Apology accepted. 

Lars:  

It's not going to happen today,  everything will be fine. Practicing. Trombone. Yes, as mentioned, you've been in lots of credible bands over the years. And held down the trombone position, in the Jools Holland band,  where you've played with so many big names. You must have lots of memories.<

Winston: Yes, I tell you what, it's a privilege playing in Jools' Rhythm & Blues Orchestra. Because, like you say,  you do, one does get the opportunity to play with lots of great artists, from all over the world.  And you know, there's obscure artists, like Seasick Steve, which we discovered on tour, in Australia, and Jools going over. And Steve's a big star now, you know. But one of my little stories is, like you think that people, that artists just keep themselves to themselves, they don't.

Being fortunate enough to have Paul McCartney play with the band,  Paul came around and shook everybody's hand, you know, that's just great, isn't it?
Lars: Yeah, that's good that they're just genuinely nice people, and musicians,  
been doing it all their lives, they just don't seem to get fed up with it.  No one's got a real ego, and if they do, they just hang it on the door for five minutes, and come in, and do a lovely job with you.
Winston: Yes, it's great. Everyone's on that stage making music together,  that's what it's all about.
Lars: I think the last time we talked, you were touring heavily, and writing,  
producing, arranging, and working I think in some of the London West End musicals. 
Winston: Yes, I'm fortunate to, as well as working with Jools and various projects, I'm fortunate to be involved in West End musicals and at the moment I'm involved in the "Tina: The Tina Turner Musical",  

[Music]

which, unfortunately, is not on due to social distancing, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Lars: Yeah, we're all hanging on, waiting for the big "go", but of course, in a close environment like that, we've got to protect ourselves. But Tina Turner show, that's a big energetic show, isn't it? We all know the songs, we all know the words. Do you have to keep frosty and on your toes, if you're playing  
them night after night, to keep the songs fresh? 

Winston: Personally, I love going into work, and  doing the job. It's just good fun. And, we all get on, the musos and the actors, everybody gets on.  
So it's just a great, fun show, to be a part of.
Lars: Are you down in the orchestra pit, or are you on the stage?
Winston: This is the thing, this is what makes it so enjoyable. Because we're actually on the stage, they've built a massive band truck, and towards the end  
of the show, the big screen at the back lifts up, reveals the band. We go out to the front along with the actors and everybody gets up and sings and dances to those classical hits.
[Music]

Lars: So let's just go back, I like asking this question, excuse me,  um, to young Winston. When you were growing up, was music always playing in your house,  
and was the trumpet the first instrument you learned?
Winston: Well, my parents were great  music lovers, there was always a stereogram playing. And for those who didn't catch it,  Lars said "trumpet". I do not play trumpet. Look, he's bowing his head in shame. But basically,  
me and a friend were walking through the corridors of school, we had a disagreement. We had a little  childish fight. The peripatetic teacher came along, that's a music teacher that used to go around to different schools, he came along. And threw us in a room and said "fight that", and then threw us in a room, threw us a trombone each and said "fight that". And that's how me and my friend  started playing. And he's still playing to this day, as well.
Lars: What a great story. But you also play keyboards and bass guitar?
Winston: Ah, I wouldn't want to go out and gig with them (laughs). I use those, predominantly for writing and arranging.
Lars: So who have been your, I mean I can't... being a guitar player, I love brass, I can't think of any names for a minute. Tell me who influenced  you, when you were growing up.
Winston: For me, it was an American trombone player called J. J. Johnson.

[Music]

I just loved his sound, the way he played, and everything. But also, you've got some great players out there, like Steve Turre, like Frank Rosolino, like Carl Fontana.  
My friend from college, Mark Nightingale, who's a fantastic trombone player. And, so influences come from all over the place, you know.
Lars: Of course, when you mention the names, J.J. Johnson, I can relate  
to him, obviously. Tell me about your role as a musical arranger and conductor.
Winston: I used to run my own big band, I'm the assistant musical director 
for the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, and I've also been privileged to be able to conduct a couple of proms with my good friend Guy Barker along with Claire Teal. Guy had his big band and I had my big band. Main prom, with all my friends, and the Albert Hall full to the max. What an experience.  
There's nothing like it and I got to do that twice.

[Music]

Lars: Twice. I mean, that must have been an incredible feeling, up there in the Albert Hall.
Winston: It was absolutely immense. I must admit, I was so emotional at the end and turned around, this is the first time I conducted, because it's very strange,  being in the band - the year before, I was in the band. And that's great, you just get on with it,  because you're with your mates and what  have you. You know what you're doing,  you've got a job to do. But standing there, on your own... So, at the end of the concert,  I turned around and we all walked to the 
front. The singers and the MDs, and Claire and we walked to the front. And I couldn't see the audience. I think I had tears in my eyes.
Lars: Apart from your big smile, which you're instantly recognizable for,  all the way around the world, I'm going to get a bit personal now. You always got a colourful bandana on. Is there a story behind that?
Winston: Well, there is a story behind that, Lars. I used to play for a band, I don't 
know whether you remember, one of the first boy bands, as I call it and they were called  The Pasadenas. And, uh, "Riding on a Train"and a few other number ones, they had. And we all had quiffs. I had a Tintin quiff.

[Music]

I had this quiff, then one day, out of sheer madness, I just shaved it off. And I decided to grow an afro, which just turned into dreads. But the thing is, when they're short, they're amazing, that's great. And like any hairs, you've got long hair Lars, you know when it drops,  uh, it's in your face. So I picked up my trombone one day and went to play and had all my dreads  in my instrument and I couldn't play. So I thought, I know what, bandana. And I've worn them ever since.
Lars: Fantastic story, I knew there was a story behind that somewhere.  
Winston, thank you so much, for taking part in the Fusion virtual world tour.
Winston: Oh, my pleasure. Anytime, anytime you need.
Lars: You are indeed one of the music business' finest trombone players.
Winston: Thanks Lars, I'll take that one.
Lars: Speak to you next time.  

Winston: Next time, Lars. All right, take it easy man.

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Lars Mullen

About Lars Mullen

With over 30 years in the music business, Lars Mullen does indeed wear many hats, as a writer, journalist, photographer, press person for his own company Music Media Announcements. As an extensive traveller, he's a familiar figure reporting from music trade shows around the world. Spending many years touring as a professional guitarist, Lars has also interviewed a host of top bands and artists, continues to write articles for magazines globally and still finds time to track down Fusion artists for our Artist Spotlight column and Fusion Virtual World Tour Interview Series.

Fusion World Tour Jools Holland Rhythm and Blues Orchestra Lars Mullen Trombone Trombonist Winston Rollins

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