Album Review: Tenderlonious – The Shakedown [22a; 15th June 2018]

The debut album by Tenderlonious and The 22archestra has been in the bag for some time. The London-based flautist and producer was invited to record at Abbey Road Studios in March 2017, and this material is the result of a single eight-hour session at the hallowed complex.

Joining him on the LP are drummer Yussef Dayes, bassist Fergus Ireland, keys wizard Hamish Balfour and a three-man percussion unit consisting of Reggie Omas, Jeen Bassa (both play on the Omas Sextet record) and Konrad.

Knowing that The Shakedown, fifty-five minutes from start to finish, was laid down in just eight hours, is vital to fairly assessing the record. The importance of that information is threefold: it enhances the listening experience by allowing one to think more deeply about the creative and recording process, it attests to the group’s stamina and finesse under pressure, plus it places the record in the same frame of reference as the great hard bop and fusion records, recorded under similar circumstances throughout the sixties and early seventies.

Considering this sense of occasion, the group certainly showed up for the sessions! Dayes’ energetic rhythms are an almost constant presence, but as with Ringo’s Abbey Road fills, he’s never dropping the same one twice. Each track gives us something a little different: brushes on the subtler You Decide, a pulsing 16th note groove on “SV Disco” and a pacy Latin rhythm on “Maria”. The melding of drums and percussion is another fine talking point. “Yussef’s Groove” is a perfect example of the drum set, hand drums and percussion working in unison to elevate the underlying groove.

Tenderlonious leads proceedings, but is never a dominant presence; his improvisation, licks, trills and solos providing memorable moments on the outstanding title track and spacious jam “Togo”.

The decision to use a long fade on “SV Interlude”—after the track has exceeded the length of a typical interlude and while Dayes’ breakbeat is building—is a slight structural shortcoming. But that takes little away from this otherwise diverse, interesting and assured anthology. Tenderlonious and his peers proved themselves more than ready for the challenge this record presented them with.