Album Review: Ruby Rushton – Ironside [22a; April 2019]

The same old Ruby Rushton..? Not this time.

Ruby Rushton have released their fourth studio album. Led by Tenderlonius, but including the likes of Nick Walters and Aiden Shepard, they have a history of creating albums that bring together their diverse influences of jazz, spiritual music, hip-hop and international sounds. This album is no different, with the band citing the likes of Yusef Lateef, John Coltrane and Weather Report as having a major impact on their work.

After creating one of my favourite modern jazz albums, Two for Joy, they have followed it up with some very good, but not quite as enigmatic and exciting, albums. Each member of the band working on different projects, largely with each other, has perhaps saturated the sound. Therefore, I was reticent before I listened to it; a slight decline from album to album has made me skeptical that Ruby Rushton would be able to hit their earlier heights.

After the first song, ‘One Mo’ Dram’, I was hooked. The band had found that surprise that seemed to have faded; the flowing bass contrasting with the jagged keys, trumpet, clarinet and sax. And despite the references to the many fantastic artists, the most notable influence is that of Herbie Hancock.

The range of instruments played across the album, most by Tenderlonius, keeps the sound fresh and allows for the dramatic pitch changes song to song. The highlight of the album is the moving ‘Prayer for Grenfell’, a Tenderlonious solo that stands out in an album which pushes itself towards the funk side of spiritual jazz, rather than the minimalist. This leads straight into a bass-filled groove track that the album takes its title from, ‘Ironside’.

This album is for those who have never heard Ruby Rushton before, as well as those who have been listening for years. It manages to maintain the sound they have become so successful for, while still feeling fresh and exciting.