‘Quartena’ is a solo lockdown album from the very prolific Tenderlonious, the London based musician, producer, DJ and record label owner and bandleader for the excellent Ruby Rushton. Like many during the pandemic, creativity has been one of the few pluses, with numerous Tenderlonious releases during 2020 and with this project moving slightly away from the spiritual jazz, bebop and afrobeat influences from many previous releases and heading towards into a more electronic and cinematic framework.
The album begins with ‘1984 (Chapter One)’, an introductory piece and pre-cursor to the rest of the album with its Vangelis-like synth patches and public announcement recordings, mixed with sweeping pads and evolving spatial effects. ‘Rocco’s Raga’ possesses a sparse rhythm with added marimba and mesmerising flute touches helping to maintain its soundtrack quality. The title track uses a spacious drum machine groove (maybe a Roland TR-606), which leaves loads of room for an immaculate trumpet solo from fellow 22a contributor Nick Walters while the synth chords and melody resonate throughout the duration of the piece.
‘Falkor’s Flight’ is a short, drum less composition of less than two minutes but is then followed by ‘Lockdown Blues’, which has an almost 2000 Black quality and could have been produced by Dego and Kaidi Tatham with its bubbling drum machines patterns, jittery chords and solid bassline, while flute and synth solos perfectly jump over the rhythm track. ‘Covid Blues’ again features Nick Walters on trumpet while synth-heavy ‘Total Recall’ is possibly an ode to the ‘80s film of the same name.
‘Moment’s Notice’ is another short composition (five tracks on the album clock in at under three minutes) and again makes great use of a drum machine, here the Roland TR707, as does ‘Birds of Paradise’ but with a reduced tempo. ‘MaskUP_GloveUP’ moves into mild broken beat territory with its thick Moog-type free-flowing bassline and another set of flute and synthesiser solos, adding a great layer to the composition. And finally, ‘Forty Nights’ invokes images of late night cityscapes with its glacial synths and atmospheric aura.
Classifying ‘Quarantena’ as a ‘lockdown’ album is somewhat unfair as one feels that we will return to this long after the lockdown has ceased, especially as this is unlike anything coming out of the UK jazz scene right now. It utilises many disparate influences, such as early 80s Japanese jazz, synth-based soundtracks, UK street soul instrumentals and jazz improvisation.
I would argue that Tenderlonious is possibly one step ahead of many of his contemporaries, specifically, many of the young UK jazz musicians. Maybe it’s due to his production background or his interest in music outside of the jazz paradigm. But nonetheless, the is quite a unique record and was definitely unexpected.