There was always some fun to be had in listening to the late Humphrey Lyttelton’s compering on the old BBC ‘Jazz Club’ radio programme (HL occupied the role for a decade from 1963 before ceding to Peter Clayton), most often in wit gently directed at the assembled musicians. One of my particular favourite quips occurred on an edition featuring a well-known British jazzman who’d spent most of the 1960s locked in the Stygian twilight of Ronnie Scott’s club, whom Humph introduced as ‘looking fit and bronzed after a week in Bolton.’
Well, I’ve not been anywhere near Bolton and certainly can’t claim to possess anything either fit or bronzed but I have greatly enjoyed a short rest from blogging over the past two weeks. As ever, though, the plan didn’t quite go the way I’d imagined. Deliberately setting aside a fortnight on which to concentrate on playing the saxophone, I ended up once again tangled in a Tubby Hayes-related web of correspondence, which, as has invariably been the pattern with such things, led to bits of sleuthing which, in turn, have uncovered yet more fascinating tit-bits of Tubbyphilia.
The first intriguing discovery came via my good friend Tom Davis, the Canadian discographer with whom I co-compiled ‘100% Proof: The Complete Tubby Hayes Discography’ (Names and Numbers, 2016). Over the course of our seventeen year relationship, Tom has frequently played Boswell to my Dr. Johnson, and blessed with both the patience of a saint and an uncanny ability to sift through all manner of disconnected information I shift his way, he’s made the nuts and bolts end of understanding Tubby’s recorded career that much easier. He also has a memory that retains even the slightest piece of record-related rumour. Just this week, he finally located a copy of a Parlophone 45prm single made by legendary bandleader Tommy Sampson, on which – someone had once told me, can’t think who – there was a brief Tubby Hayes tenor solo.
Tom and I both operate on a ‘belt and braces’ basis so that if there’s any uncertainty over such things we run everything by one another, a useful method where ‘alleged’ TH contributions are concerned (we’ve done a hell of a lot of listening to a ‘Tubby Hayes’ who transpired to be either Bob Efford or Ronnie Scott, for instance). To my delight, however, this time the rumour was right and the dated yet quite charming B-side of Sampson’s ‘Lazy Train’ - ‘Smooth Mood’ - does indeed include a short but oh-so-lovely Tubby improvisation. It may be half a chorus, but it’s half a chorus by TH, the sort of jazz gold nugget that collectors of another era used to like uncovering in forgotten Bix Beiderbecke solos on those old Paul Whiteman sides.
I suspect that this single dates to 1961 – the year which I and others consider Tubby’s ‘breakthrough’ - and it’s especially timely that it arrived when it did, this past week marking an incredible sixty years since the recording of the Early 1960s Hayes Manifesto that was the album ’Tubbs’. This is mere co-incidence, of course, but I’ve often felt as if there might be some weird law of synchronicity to how these things fall together. Sampson’s Parlophone single was produced by none other than George Martin, who readers of this blog will know featured heavily in my series on British modern jazz and the Beatles. Strange how these things domino together.
Mod in Manchester, Hungover in Hamburg
I won’t extend the Twilight Zone connections any further but suffice to say that the most exciting and newsworthy Hayes discovery of recent months also dates to this key year – 1961 – and that is the unearthing of a recording of an entire club gig by the Hayes quartet taped in Manchester that summer. Precise details are still being confirmed, but in terms of rarity value this recording is multi-layered. First, there are very few informal live recordings by Hayes prior to 1963 (the year the late Les Tomkins started his covert taping activities at the old Ronnie Scott’s), and there are fewer still that represent a ‘typical’ club engagement. As with all such discoveries, these Manchester tapes reveal how Hayes treated these fundamental sorts of jobs - the mortar between the slabs which made up the edifice of his legend – and in this regard this new find is revelatory, not least for its inclusion of material we’ve not heard him play before, either live or in a studio. Although it’s not yet decided how (or indeed if) this recording will be issued commercially, its very discovery is worthy of note, prompting the question of how much else there might be of Hayes on tape languishing somewhere, forgotten in a garden shed or at the back of a cupboard.
Another forgotten fragment can be heard on the recently issued triple-CD set by German bandleader Kurt Edelhagen ‘The Unreleased WDR Jazz Recordings 1957-74’ (Jazzline Classics D 77091) which I’ve just had the pleasure of reviewing for a well-known jazz magazine. Comprising forty previously unissued radio station-recorded tracks (in stunning sound) it’s not only a mammoth feast of music, it’s a major accomplishment for its compiler, Dr. Bernt Hoffmann, who had the devil’s own job sifting through over 3,000 tapes in order to assemble the set. Having appraised this collection in depth elsewhere, I’ll briefly say that it’s essential listening if you’re at all interested in European jazz during the post-war years, boasting a mouthwatering list of international guest artists. From a Brit-jazz perspective, though, there is also space for the likes of trumpeters Jimmy Deuchar, Shake Keane and Kenny Wheeler, altoist Derek Humble (outstanding throughout), tenorist Wilton ‘Bogey’ Gaynair (remember his old Tempo LP, ‘Blue Bogey’?) and, on one brief cameo, Tubby Hayes, who takes an energised flute ride through his own ‘In The Night’ (here is where Dr. Hoffmann and I disagree; this was actually taped in March 1964 not September 1967 as the booklet maintains).
This in an outstanding release in every way and I’d urge you to seek it out. In fact, it may well be my ‘record of the year’ so consistently engaging is its contents.
I said at the beginning of this piece that I’d taken a break from writing over the past couple of weeks but I suppose I haven’t - not if you count record reviews as a ‘creative’ endeavour.
Besides the Edelhagen discs, I’ve also written about a fabulous Wes Montgomery issue, ‘The NDR Hamburg Studio Recordings’, another double-disc collection assembled from German radio station tapes, which contains, alongside the headliners signature mellow guitar inventions, oodles of the two Ronnie's – Scott and Ross, vintage ‘65. Again, it’s manna from straight-ahead heaven for the acoustic-bop loving jazz fan and I’d recommend it unreservedly were it not for the fact that the ‘bonus’ Blu-Ray disc – containing a rather stagey ‘rehearsal’ by the same band – includes Ronnie Ross taking his own particular walk on the wild side. Several musician who used to play on the old NDR workshops series (Allan Ganley, Alan Skidmore, Ian Hamer et al) told me that the luxury of a weeks worth of well-paid work with ‘the chaps’ often led to all sorts of bad behaviour. I’ll leave the reader to discover Ross’s own contribution to the legend of this series, although as a parting shot, I wonder what his family must think of this contribution to his recorded legacy?
Brilliant Corners and Seaside Snaps
Come to think of it, I HAVE been writing. ‘Jazzwise’ magazine asked me to contribute to their ‘Brilliant Corners’ feature, a regular page that celebrates notable unions of jazz and geographic locations. I’ve plumped for the Musicians Social and Benevolent Fund’s ‘Jazz Jamboree’ series, which ran annually from 1940 to 1965. These concerts really were all-star affairs and in my piece (due for publication in the summer) you’ll meet an eclectic cast ranging from Al Bowlly to the Spencer Davis Group. And, of course, Tubby’s in there too, naturally.
I’m also pleased to say that fellow blogger Sebastian Scotney’s 'London Jazz News' will also be running my contribution to their ongoing ‘Ten Tracks I Can’t Live Without’ series in which I’ve chosen my top Tubby Hayes recordings, a task that was far harder than I’d expected it to be. In the end, I created my own criteria of selecting pieces that I’d come across early on in my acquaintance with his music – again, I’ll leave the reader to find out what these are in the actual article. This, understandably, meant that I had to leave out all manner of off-air, unreleased and privately recorded performances, including a 1965 tape including some of the best Hayes ever captured by a recording microphone, which oddly enough had a connection to those ‘Jazz Jamboree’ concerts mentioned above.
Briefly, after a Sunday afternoon performance (November 7th) with his big band, closing the very last ‘Jamboree’, Hayes headed to the Bull’s Head in Barnes for an evening gig with his quartet featuring Terry Shannon, Dave Green and Johnny Butts. Early on in the set, regular Hayes’ big band sideman trumpeter Ian Hamer arrived in the company of US trumpet star Freddie Hubbard and ex-Mingus pianist Jaki Byard, en route home from a European tour with Art Blakey but stranded in London due to bad weather (this band can be seen on the Jazz Icons DVD ‘Live in ‘65’). Both Hubbard and Byard sat in with Hayes, as did tenorist Peter King, resulting in a thrillingly gladiatorial display of ‘changes and chops’ modern jazz. Hamer recorded part of the evening on his portable reel-to-reel recorder and a copy survives in his archive. Although in muffled audio, the performance brims with atmosphere, climaxing with Hubbard, Hayes and King duelling it out on a ridiculously over-the-top ‘Cherokee’. What state of the art sound restoration software could do for this recording I’m not sure (it’s a sort of Tubby Hayes Dead Sea Scrolls) but its survival is a major plus, whatever the condition.
Thinking of this performance (the gig was listed in Dave Green’s diary as ‘a ball’) I’m reminded of a whole host of other Hayes tapes that, fingers firmly crossed, might one day turn up. Things like his 1964 broadcast from New York’s Half Note Club in the company of the Cedar Walton trio, or the cine film that Louis Stewart told me survived from his and Hayes’ October 1969 jaunt to Dublin. The late Ron Mathewson likewise told me he had home movie footage of the Hayes quartet out on the road. Where might that be now, I wonder?
Recordings are just one part of the story though. The other significant Hayes treasure trove that seems bottomless is the photographic record. In fact, for all those occasional live club tapes there are scores of snapshots of him in action. Some wonderful shots of the 1962 Hayes Quintet in action at the Antibes Jazz Festival surfaced a few weeks ago, for instance, all previously unpublished.
Several further images unknown to me arrived courtesy of first-call session bassist Steve Pearce, who sent me a handful of wonderful colour images of the Tubby Hayes and Dick Morrissey Quartet’s taken at Bournemouth’s Ritz Ballroom in 1966/1967 (more on Morrissey here soon).
The Hayes pictures are notable because they augment a series of black and white images taken the same night that are already familiar to fans (one can be seen on the cover of the 1990-released LP ‘For Members Only’). Colour, naturally, gives any photograph a more contemporary feel, although looking at Hayes in the shot heading this post there can be no doubt that this is the 1960s; that shiny bum-freezer suit, the narrow tie, the gleaming brand new Selmer Mk VI tenor, the then recently purchased Berg Larsen mouthpiece. Still, there’s something about seeing him in colour, giving those of us too young to know what it was like to be in the same space with him a chance to see what one writer called his ‘albumen nightclub complexion’, a mask in stark contrast to the glowing lustre of his saxophone tone. That sound still feels alive to us now, some forty seven years after Hayes death, creating, as that same journalist observed, ‘a legacy of leaping life that boils up every time the stylus descends’. Music in technicolour, as it were.
Photo: Puttin’ on: Tubby Hayes at the Ritz Ballroom, Bournemouth, April 22nd 1966