Ruby Rushton are something of a mysterious force. Having released their debut record, Two For Joy, in 2015 without much fanfare, the group has since amassed a steady following that reaches beyond their jazz genre. Referencing hip-hop, bass culture, merengue and more in their compositions, the group have also played a key part in the South London jazz resurgence, with individual members featuring on live shows with Yussef Kamaal, Moses Boyd and others. Now their second album, Trudi’s Songbook: Volume One, is due for release this week, with Volume Two slated for later in the year, and it heralds the group’s proper arrival.
By way of the vinyl structure – a double format of three a and three b tracks – Ruby Rushton hark back to the ‘50s and ‘60s recordings of John Coltrane, Yusef Lateef and Sonny Rollins. Lateef’s presence is particularly felt, specifically on Prayer for Yusef Master. Bandleader Ed Cawthorne, aka Tenderlonious, has spoken of how discovering Lateef encouraged him to take up the saxophone. The tribute certainly conjures the afro-spritual atmospherics of the master himself. Although, as the track moves into solo territory and Cawthorne pushes his saxophone into higher registers, his evocations of Lateef’s beautifully emotive phrasing falter. Similarly, the free jazz referencing The Camels Back is cut short before its improvisations gains a sense of coherence.
Where Trudi’s Songbook is strongest then, is in its form, more so than its content. Funk-inflected opener Moonlight Woman is an insidious groover featuring Herbie Hancock-style keys playing from Aidan Shepherd and solid rhythmic work from bassist Fergus Ireland. Following number Elephant and Castle is an upbeat Latin take featuring delicate harmonies from Cawthorne and trumpeter Nick Walters, while the record reaches a climax on the double-time Where Are You Now. Here Eddie Hick displays his ferocity behind the kit, accompanied by the light touch of percussionist Joseph Deenmamode.
Ultimately, Trudi’s Songbook: Volume One is a record full of earthy rhythm, punctuated by moments of introspection as well as loud self-expression. Ruby Rushton have managed to capture the impactful looseness of the live show on wax, which is no easy feat. While elements of the soloing might falter when scrutinised, this is a record that operates on a macro level, designed to reflect the spontaneous feeling of its playing upon listening.
[This piece was published in EZH Magazine on 18/05/17]