Memphis based multi-instrumentalist, composer, and arranger David Collins has always been drawn to the experimental side of music, creating sounds based around texture, color, thematic development, and interplay. Collins began playing drum set and piano at the age of 12 by playing standards and classic country tunes alongside his grandpa Aubrey Morris (pianist for Eddie Bond). Collins’ house was a hub for jam sessions and he quickly picked up other instruments, including guitar and bass. By the age of 15 he was performing weekly at a local restaurant and learning to read music in the school band.
Collins graduated with a B.A. in Jazz and Studio Performance from the University of Memphis in 2017 where he studied under Tim Goodwin, Sam Shoup, Jack Cooper, and Joe Restivo. In 2019 the Urban Arts Commission of Memphis enlisted Collins and Khari Wynn (Public Enemy’s musical director) to compose and perform a piece of music for their ‘Revisiting’ program. The same year, Collins received a grant to arrange and perform a concert of music written by Memphis-based jazz luminaries.
Collins has had two albums recorded under his leadership added to the Memphis Public library’s Memphis Sound Connection and works frequently as a frontman, sideman, and educator. He is the band leader for the bands Frog Squad, Freak Squid, and Stroke Photos, hosts the long-standing Sunday night jazz jam at the Cove in Memphis, and teaches at Memphis Music Academy and Lausanne Collegiate School. In 2022, he started 2722, an original sci-fi/ambient show on WYXR, which airs Sundays at 10pm CST.
David Collins, onetime jazz major at the University of Memphis, now the principal force behind avant-garde jazz group Frog Squad, is telling me about the players on his new album, Memphis, self-released on digital platforms last week
Memphis hasn’t offered many chances to hear music that’s completely spontaneous since the glory days of the ’90s, when the likes of George Cartwright roamed these streets. But that’s changing.
Frog Squad has been turning heads for a few years now, especially among free jazz aficionados. But unlike, say, Dopolarians or other strictly “free” combos based solely on improvisation, Frog Squad has a secret weapon: composition.
“Solar System in Peabody” is a musical tribute to sculptor Yvonne Bobo’s Around We Go and Without Boundaries, both located in Peabody Park on Cooper. It was written by Khari Wynn and David Collins, and features saxophonist/flutist Hope Clayburn, keybaordist Dave Hash, drummer John Harrison, and saxophonists Michael Shults and Aaron Phillips.