Tenderlonious ‘The Piccolo: TENDER plays TUBBY’ EP/CD (Jazz Detective) 5/5

‘The Piccolo – TENDER plays TUBBY’ marks the brand new EP by the ever-versatile Tenderlonious, delivered through Jazz Detective Records.

As the founder of 22a Records, saxophonist and flautist Ed ‘Tenderlonious’ Cawthorne has established his reputation as a leading flag-waver for progressive and forward-thinking jazz. The strong theme of collaboration has always been prevalent throughout the numerous Tenderlonious releases: through his work as a member of the UK’s Ruby Rushton musical collective, revered for seeking inspiration from hip-hop and electronica to form part of their own masterful compositions; the Tenderlonious collaboration with Poland’s Electro-Acoustic Beat Sessions (EABS) absolutely warrants mention for their joint 22a release ‘Kraksa’ and ‘Svantetic’ which saw an exciting union with the like-minded hip-hop inspired septet; then, certainly not least of all, there’s the Tenderlonious excursion to Lahore, Pakistan, to record with the instrumental quartet, Jaubi, for their project ‘Tender in Lahore’.

So while we credit Cawthorne as being that innovative and forward-thinking artist, ‘Tender Plays Tubby’ provides Cawthorne with the unique opportunity to turn his attention towards the consummate accomplishments of those that came before him, in this case, the music of saxophonist Tubby Hayes. And as emphasised by the project’s title, ‘the piccolo’ acts as our very own time travelling vessel between these two eras of jazz music forming as much a part of the ‘Tender Plays Tubby’ story as Tubby Hayes’ legacy itself.

Having been locked away for almost 40 years following Hayes’ death, the piccolo was one of several cherished items included inside a trunk filled with memoirs, photos and tapes of his recording sessions. And while the contents of that trunk have led to a handful of albums subsequently seeing the light of day through official releases, ‘Tender Plays Tubby’ sees an homage in an entirely new perspective to the man once dubbed “British jazz’s forgotten genius”.

Backing Tenderlonious on this project is a stunning ensemble comprising of Cawthorne’s Ruby Rushton bandmates including trumpeter Nick Walters, drummer Tim Carnegie and on accordion Aidan Shepherd, along with pianist and vibraphonist Hamish Balfour (Belleruche, Nim Sadot) and bassist Pete Martin (Kamaal Williams, Brand New Heavies). Collectively, the musicians reinterpret four songs from the epic catalogue that comprised Hayes legacy kicking the EP off with the vibrant and high energy swing of ‘Down In The Village’ (‘Down In The Village’ by Tubby Hayes Quintet, 1963), an exquisite and scene-stealing interpretation of ‘Trenton Place’ (‘Mexican Green’ by Tubby Hayes Quartet, 1967), ‘Raga’ (‘Tubbs’ Tours’ by The Tubby Hayes Orchestra, 1964) and ‘In The Night’ (‘Down In The Village’ by Tubby Hayes Quintet, 1963) round out the selections.

While the music of Tubby Hayes will find itself embedded within the rich tapestry of UK jazz’s lineage, this project will still serve to reintroduce his music to the attention of an entirely new generation. But this is still a Tenderlonious record so while ‘Tender Plays Tubby’ presents the music of Tubby Hayes, the project is still delivered within that distinctive Tenderlonious aesthetic making this a wonderful extension to his own musical legacy.

Imran Mirza