London’s much-mythologised jazz resurgence has seen a number of key figures gain widespread recognition, and it’s time for Tenderlonious’ skills to be platformed on a much wider level than he currently enjoys. A stellar musician, a fantastic improviser, a riveting band leader, his new album ‘The Shakedown’ – the first under his own name – is an exhibition in how to focus the creative currents rippling through London’s jazz scene into something whole.
Working with the 22archestra – a reference both to Sun Ra and his own 22a imprint – the album opens with the lush grandeur of ‘Expansions’, dominated by Hamish Balfour’s keys and those endlessly experimenting drum licks.
Rhythm provides the genesis of ‘Yussef’s Groove’, named in recognition of Yussef Dayes, the one-time Yussef Kamaal firebrand who takes the drum stool on this number. Initially released as a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it seven inch via Sounds Of The Universe it benefits from wider context here, a ruthless rhythmic pulse married to Tenderlonious’ astute musicality.
‘Togo’ is a heavy club experience, the continually revolving bassline at times recalling Fela Kuti in its commitment to surpass all obstacles. Title track ‘The Shakedown’ opens in a low key fashion, the twilight atmosphere augmented by subtle keys and that suggestive flute line. Building in tension, the rock solid groove seems to move between Herbie Hancock’s fusion steppers and breakbeat’s golden era, resulting in something defiantly modern.
‘You Decide’ is dominated by that coy bassline, the cute inversions rubbing against drum brushstrokes, while ‘SV Disco’ is all about that stomping rhythm, the fatback bass, and whispered flute intermingling with squelching synth lines.
Although ostensibly a solo work, Tenderlonious’ new record feels like a killer ensemble piece, with the 22archestra coming to represent some of the possibilities inherent in London’s jazz scene right now. A record that thrives on the unexpected, it refuses to be hemmed in, recorded during one long eight hour session at London’s legendary Abbey Road studios.
Closing track ‘Red Sky At Night’ opens with tinkling Fender Rhodes lines, the ‘In A Silent Way’ atmosphere disrupted by shuffling rhythms before making way for a beautifully simple melody courtesy of the band-leader’s flute. It all feels incredibly natural, recalling the familiar while searching endlessly for the new.
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