It’s hard to know how people discover jazz music. For many, it’s probably influenced by parents or peers who are into it in the first place, never quite sitting on mainstream’s radar. But things might be a whole lot different for future younguns, with the current excitement surrounding the British jazz scene giving us a solid output of artists, tunes, labels, gigs and venues that are causing us to pay attention right now.
One of these bands is Ruby Rushton – a live quartet led by musician, DJ and 22a label founder Ed Cawthorne, who produces solo stuff under his Tenderlonious alias too. They’ve just released their latest album, Ironside, and are coming to Notts to show us what they’re made of.
As comfortable performing on Sofar Sounds as they are Boiler Room, this is jazz but not as you know it, fusing it with dance inspired beats - after all, wasn’t it the ‘club’ music of its generation?
We had a chat with keys player, Aidan Shepherd, before the band heads down to The Chameleon for a live show...
How would you describe yourself to someone who has never heard of Ruby Rushton before?
Hard hitting jazz grooves meet unhinged musical passions, with a vitamin B12 overdose.
What instruments will you guys be playing on the night?
Flute, sax, trumpet, keyboard, synth bass and drums.
How do you want to leave the audience feeling after your shows?
Sweaty, fulfilled, and a little bit offended that their personal space has been violated.
What differentiates the Ruby Rushton project from the solo Tenderlonious work?
Ruby Rushton is more collaborative between the band members, with everyone contributing musical ideas, whilst still being led by the distinctive sound of Ed Cawthorne’s flute and sax. A lot of the music is more harmonically developed, and doesn’t shy away from more angular rhythmic patterns.
We know your sound could be described as modern jazz, but you're undoubtedly influenced by the greats too - what would you say the difference is?
I think when people say ‘classic’, they’re referring to established musical forms and sounds or timbres. The sound of flute/sax and trumpet playing together can be found on thousands of jazz records for example, and some of our tunes on the new record Ironside follow a conventional structure, but we try to approach it with our own energy and honesty. Modern jazz takes this as a starting point and builds something else from it, sometimes incorporating sounds or instruments from other styles, as we do with the synth bass for example. And of course our recording style of ‘an album in a day’ is very classic!
On that note - who are your biggest musical influences?
Coltrane, J Dilla, Miles, Eric Dolphy, Monk, Yusef Lateef.
There's a lot of news surrounding the jazz revival in London, and many great labels igniting this fire (including 22a). A dedicated jazz bar has recently opened here in Notts too. Why do you think we're seeing this type of music rise in popularity again?
I think there’s an expectation in seeing something ‘authentic’; people have higher expectations of what they’ll experience at a gig, and jazz can deliver the excitement and passion that can be lacking in other musical forms. Of course, there’s all the surrounding ‘infrastructure’ as well - once something gains a bit of traction or one or two artists make moves in the wider scene then record stores, magazines, online media etc can all get on board and that creates the buzz that is needed for music, and musicians, to thrive.
We're excited to see that the guys from Quake will be DJing on the night - do you think fusing the live shows with a dance / club element is important?
Of course. We try to bring the same amount of energy to what we do as you’d get from being in a club with a DJ, and reaching out to new audiences is always important, that’s what 22a is about.
The Chameleon is a cosy (but fantastic) venue in Nottingham. Do you enjoy playing small cap gigs like this?
Yes it’s always a better vibe in a smaller venue, we need the energy from the audience as much as they need our music, so of course it’s a continuous back and forth. We played an enormous stage in Finland last year, but the audience were about 100 yards away, so we had to find that energy ourselves. On those gigs we tend to bunch up real close together, like the old school guys who tried to get their heads as close together as possible so they were all hearing the same thing!
Other than your gig in Notts, where else can we catch you in the coming months?
Last year we were mainly gigging abroad, so we’re making an effort this year to do more at home. After Notts we’ll be playing in cities like Leeds, Liverpool, Glasgow and York, as well as some London shows. You can also catch us at Love Supreme Festival and Ealing Jazz Festival this summer too.
Ruby Rushton play at The Chameleon on Wednesday 24 April, joined by DJs from Quake.