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Tenderlonious featuring The 22archestra: The Shakedown

Chris May By

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In Britain, the incidence of self-taught jazz musicians has declined dramatically over recent decades. Jazz-studies programmes have mushroomed in colleges and more and more young players have been signing up to them. Successful stylists of earlier eras, who may have studied informally with an older musician but who learnt most of their art on the bandstand, increasingly belong to the past.

Ed "Tenderlonious" Cawthorne is among a handful of autodidacts who have bucked the trend. He spent much of his early childhood abroad (his father was in the military), and music lessons did not figure in his school curricula. As a teenager, he happened on records by Yusef Lateef and John Coltrane and, inspired by a Lateef album cover, bought a soprano saxophone he saw in a shop window and taught himself to play. He later taught himself the flute. By that time an in-demand DJ, spinning jazz, broken beat and deep house in London clubs, going to college did not figure in his plans.

In 2018, Cawthorne is one of the musicians blowing new life into the London jazz scene, alongside a host of exciting players which includes saxophonists Shabaka Hutchings and Nubya Garcia, trumpeters Yazz Ahmed and Dylan Jones, drummer Moses Boyd, and keyboardists Joe Armon-Jones and Kamaal Williams. Cawthorne has his own label, 22a, and two bands, including the 22archestra, who are featured here. Like that of his peers, Cawthorne's take on jazz is a hybrid, involving hefty infusions of hip hop and hip hop-derived styles, and like Kamaal Williams, he is at the beat-centric end of the new-jazz spectrum.

On The Shakedown, the core of the 22archestra is keyboardist Hamish Balfour, bassist Fergus Ireland and onetime Kamaal Williams collaborator, drummer Yussef Dayes. When building his arrangements, Cawthorne has to employ unconventional methods. "I was never educated talking about music as a diminuendo or crescendo," he said in a recent interview. "So for me it's about describing the music [to the band] as if I was writing it for a film. Like 'we're in some alleyway and it's dimly lit and there are a couple of shady characters,' or 'you're walking down the beach and you're trying to play it cool and puff your chest out.' And they laugh, because they don't hear that normally."

But it works. The Shakedown is one of a dozen or so albums to have been released in Britain in late 2017 and early 2018 that are radically redefining jazz. Also prominent among them are Shabaka Hutchings's Sons of Kemet's Your Queen Is A Reptile (Impulse!), Joe Armon-Jones's Starting Today (Brownswood), Kamaal Williams's The Return (Black Focus), Yazz Ahmed's La Saboteuse (Naim) and the various artists showcase We Out Here (Brownswood), all previously reviewed here. Jazz is on a roll in Britain and, boy, it is an exciting ride.

Track Listing: Expansions; Yussef’s Groove; Togo; SV Interlude; The Shakedown; Maria; You Decide; SV Disco; Red Sky At Night.

Personnel: Ed “Tenderlonious” Cawthorne: flute, synthesisers; Hamish Balfour: Rhodes, keyboards; Fergus Ireland: double bass, electric bass; Yussef Dayes: drums; Tim Carnegue: drums; Mo Kolours: percussion; Al Dobson Jr: percussion; Aidan Shepherd: keyboards; Nick Walters: trumpet; Reginald Omas Mamode 1; percussion; Jeen Bassa: percussion; Konrad: percussion.

Title: The Shakedown | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: 22a

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