Hugh Masekela Remembered, Ruby Rushton’s Ironside, New Sounds and Visuals
The late jazz trumpeter and anti-apartheid activist Hugh Masekela was remembered worldwide yesterday, on what would’ve been his 80th birthday. A commemorative Google doodle circulated in the US, UK and South Africa amongst other territories: nodding to the places in which the influential artist established his career and focussed his anti-apartheid actions. His legacy was also highlighted by organisations like Jazz at Lincoln Centre, who shared their remembrance article from last year alongside footage from Masekela’s 75th birthday concert, at the venue.
Affectionately known as Bra Hugh, Masekela’s career had began to gather pace in the mid-to-late-fifties, while he was still a teen in South Africa. The events and aftermath of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre were what finally forced him to leave the country, leading him first to London’s Guildhall School of Music, before his trips to the US and meeting with jazz vocalist Harry Belafonte saw him enroll at the Manhattan School of Music.
His late sixties and early seventies album contain some of his most popular hits, but his late eighties song Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela) is also widely known as being a key composition in the struggle against the South African apartheid regime and campaign to have Mandela freed from prison. Masekela never stopped developing his art, often working with young and upcoming musicians, encouraging them to learn and guiding them in the world of professional music.
His momentous work will no doubt live on for years to come. Here’s an interview in which classical and jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis talks to Masekela about the anti-apartheid struggle.
The Repeat Listen: Ruby Rushton – Ironside
Tasting Notes: EABS – Repetitions (Letters to Krzysztof Komeda), Donald Byrd – Electric Byrd, Joe Armon-Jones – Starting Today, Yusef Lateef – The Diverse Yusef Lateef, Weather Report – Sweetnighter
Ed ‘Tenderlonious’ Cawthorne’s recording methodology with both Ruby Rushton and his 22archestra, is about capturing ‘the keeper’. An ethos similar to that of the famed, Blue Note-associated artists and engineers – it involves a considerate setup of instruments and microphones, before playing take after take, until comfortable that the tape contains a true representation of an ensemble firing on all cylinders. No overdubs, splicing or trickery, just honest, well-crafted recordings.
While Ruby Rushton’s new album Ironside was recorded over two day-sessions — just like its predecessor Trudi’s Songbook Vol. 1 and 2— they worked in altogether more prestigious space this time around: the history-steeped Abbey Road Studios. Engineered by house recordist Matt Mysko, who oversaw the single-day recording of The Shakedown, its sublime recording and production quality are evident from its opening Rhodes chords to its hip-hop-infused closing bars.
The playing, arrangement, recording and production bare all the hallmarks of a well-made recording. From the rich, full-sounding kicks and bass synths, through the warm toms, Rhodes and keyboards to the clear and defined hi-hats, cymbals and trumpet tones, each sound immediate, crisp and characterful. In a production sense: the instruments breathe beautifully, each finding their own space within the mix, processed only for the purpose of subtle enhancements.
One Mo’ Dram kicks off the LP: an eventful yet understated composition, with a riff that could easily serve as the motif in a classic score for European cinema. On Where Are You Now?, we hear Cawthorne soloing with this soprano, having rested the tenor sax for these sessions. He plays it through a distortion and wah pedal with authority, before locking back in with Nick Walters’ horn line – just one example of the pair playing in perfect syncopation throughout the LP.
The Target is new drummer Tim Carnegie’s place to shine: sensitive ghost notes on the snare, off beat hi-hat chokes, complex rhythms on the ride cymbal and simple-yet-effective fills carrying the structure along. Prayer for Grenfell hears Tenderlonious playing a solo flute piece in remembrance of those lost to the disaster, with quiet and sombre passages, plus energetic and soulful playing.
Having worked with Polish ensemble EABS — who assembled their debut album from the Krzysztof Komeda songbook — it’s clear that Tenderlonious too has developed an affinity with the late Polish composer’s work. The requiem that closes the LP is a fitting tribute to the Polish pianist and composer – stripped back to acoustic instrumentation with shimmering wooden and metallic percussion, beautiful solos from Walters, Cawthorne and Aidan Shepherd, before a suave hip-hop coda takes album to its conclusion.
Tenderlonious’ years of autodidactic development, refinement of the Ruby Rushton sound and continued care for his label’s recorded output, have led to a record of a truly high standard. Offered facilities as versatile as those at Abbey Road, he and the band have seized the opportunity, putting in outstanding performances and assembling a work that will stand out amongst the 22a catalogue and London jazz canon for years to come.
New Sounds and Visuals
Jontavious Willis’ new record Spectacular Class arrives today and its seventh cut, the unaccompanied Take me to the country, is a fine example of its authentic blues contents. As Willis told the Bluegrass Situation yesterday: “No matter where I go in the world, I can’t wait to go back to the country. For me, that special place is a rural southern town in Georgia where I grew up. It’s such a quiet and calm place, and somewhere I crave when I’m far from it.”
Noya Rao’s new electro-soul cut Talk is brimming with pulsing synths and 4/4 rhythms – gorgeously layered and carefully sculpted. It rifles along at 120BPM, before a series of groove changes lead it into a woozy-headed coda. A vibrant and creative cut to stoke excitement for their forthcoming EP, Owls.
London-based outfit Ezra Collective dropped a fantastic new single featuring Loyle Carner, this week. The rapper and actor, who plays two sold out shows here at Band on the Wall in the coming weeks, contributes some wise words to What Am I To Do?, which is the second track we’ve heard from Ezra’s forthcoming full length, You Can’t Steal My Joy. In the description to the new single, drummer and bandleader Femi Koleoso describes Carner as ‘family’, recalling some advice he once received from Maverick Sabre about featuring artists on recordings. “He said to me ‘you only get features from family. Can you call them right now? You seen them live, have they seen you?’ That really resonated with me.” Koleoso stated.
Pianist, composer and one-time Jazz Directors series participant Ashley Henry has announced his debut LP Beautiful Vinyl Hunterand shared THE MIGHTY, featuring Ben Marc. Its fluid mixture of keyboards, stringed instruments and drums makes for an enchanting three-and-a-half minutes of listening.
Marie Davidson’s certified banger Work It was given the Dewaele treatment recently, and finally saw release via Ninja Tune this week. 2manydjs dropped it to open their recent show at YES, and it’s certain to be heard on dancefloors for years to come.