Ed Cawthorne, aka Tenderlonious, has paid his dues as a DJ, record producer and also runs his own label 22a. As if this isn’t enough, he is also a talented and versatile multi-instrumentalist and has played music that incorporates hip hop, fusion, and Hindustani classical music.
With the release of his latest album, You Know I Care, Tenderlonious has explored more deeply his love of jazz, falling under the spell of alto saxophonist Jackie McLean among others, and also picking up another instrument along the way.
Your new album You Know I Care appears as a new chapter and major statement in your discography. Can you tell us a bit about the album?
I wanted to shed some light on some of the unsung heroes from the golden era of jazz – particularly Jackie McLean and Clifford Jordan. They are, in my opinion, less celebrated players than some of the other musicians from that period, so I felt a responsibility to showcase their music to a younger audience who otherwise might not have had the opportunity to discover their names.
You Know I Care is the most straight-ahead jazz recording that you have made, and the first to feature music written by jazz greats as opposed to a focus on original material on your other releases. It also sounds as if it’s an album that you have been wanting to make for some time. Why now to record an album of standards?
Interestingly as well as your flutes we hear a new voice on the recording. Previously we have heard you play tenor saxophone with the band Ruby Rushton, and soprano on the excellent ‘Ragas From Lahore’. What made you pick up the alto for You Know I Care and is the instrument going to be regular addition to your instrumental armoury?
You also run the record label 22a Records. Can you tell us about the label and the musical policy behind the wide range of music that can be heard from the imprint?
It’s exactly that – a wide range of music.
I’m inspired by so many different types of music from around the world. Ultimately it all works its way into my sound and eventually I’ll find a way to facilitate making a record within that style – like Hindustani classical, Polish jazz, Italo disco, etc.
I like to travel – I grew up overseas in a couple of different countries – so being able to incorporate my music with my travels is a key feature of the 22a ethos.
Maybe you could tell us about your own musical background and the man behind Tenderlonious. How did you become interested in music, and when did you start playing?
I’ve been interested in music as long as I can remember. When I was young, I was particularly interested in film music and music of a cinematic nature. As I got into my teens I started DJ’ing and was playing a mix of house, hip hop and drum & bass. A few years later I started producing my own tracks and during this time started discovering jazz. I was sampling jazz records for a while, but soon I felt the need to start learning how to play an instrument. By the time I was in my early twenties I decided to learn the saxophone – specifically the soprano. It all just snowballed from there really and over time I accumulated more instruments (flutes, saxophones, synthesizers, drum machines, etc.) and continued pushing myself to explore and learn more about music.
How did you become interested in jazz, and who would say have influenced you as a musician?
I was sampling jazz records in my house and hip hop productions. I used to buy records based purely on the instruments listed on the back cover – specifically saxophone, drums and Fender Rhodes. After a while I got to understand the different eras and players of jazz music. Eventually I became heavily inspired by certain musicians and groups, for example Headhunters, Weather Report, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Yusef Lateef – the list is long!
The constant on all your recordings is the flute and alto flute. What attracted you to the flute as its use in jazz is still not as widespread as it could be, and at best used by many musicians as a doubling instrument?
It sort of happened by accident. I had a student that was learning the flute and so I had to familiarise myself with it so I could teach the basics. Luckily a work colleague had gifted me a flute years earlier (it had belonged to his older sister, and she had since grown up and hadn’t played it since she was a child). I dug it out from a dusty cupboard and then started to learn it. I fell in love with the sound immediately. There’s something very pure about the sound of the flute – once you pick it up it’s hard to put it down!
You play in a wide variety of genres, What interests and drives your passion as a musician?
Travelling inspires me – the sights and sounds of somewhere new. I also like a challenge and enjoy learning new things, for example, the discovery of ragas in Hindustani classical music was, and still is, a huge inspiration for me.
You are also involved in the production side of the business too. Do you find that being a musician influences the way you think and work as a producer or vice versa?
Yes, definitely! The two go hand in hand. Learning how to play instruments has definitely improved my musicianship, but even before I played the sax or flute I was immersed in music production and still had a good sense of rhythm and melody. I think that both approaches are equally beneficial to a developing musician.
And what next for Tenderlonious? Can we expect to hear more straight ahead jazz and your wonderful alto playing?
Without a doubt! I’m writing something new as we speak. I’m really digging the alto at the moment, so there will definitely be some more of that on the next album.