The closing track on this CD was recorded in January 1963, It constitutes the beginning of the first of two lengthy conversations I recorded with the legendary British jazz musician Tubby Hayes. 13 years earlier, in 1950. as a teenage club promoter. I had "discovered" him when he turned up one night to "sit in" with the club group. We were immediately aware of potential greatness in the playing of this stocky young Raynes Park lad. As you can surmise from our chat—Tubby and I socialised quite a bit after that, and I wish I'd had the facilities then to record the amazing music heard at private parties. All I have is a piece of vinyl made in a local studio. Later In the year. when I opened a new club in a larger room at Rosehill, Sutton, Surrey, I asked Tubby to lead the house band, which included two other late greats, Harry South on piano and Terry Brown on trumpet. From then on, patrons and musicians alike had effusive comments to make about the sheer energy and enthusiasm of Tubby's considerable jazz skills. I have a vivid mental picture of the way he clearly enjoyed the solos of his colleagues, egging them on with eager vocal sounds.
That other tenor legend Ronnie Scott was one who, after first hearing him, used the word "fantastic" about Tubby, and did so many more times before the instance here. During the interview segment you can hear Tubby expressing his gratitude to me for bringing about their initial get-together, personally and musically. Their talents merged so splendidly on that occasion. their mutual respect so obvious, that it is surprising it took them a further seven years before they began their outstanding two-year alliance as The Jazz Couriers. The Couriers blew up a storm till 1959—in the October of which Ronnie, In collaboration with Pete King, opened the original premises of the world-famous club that bears his name, wherein the music on this CD was made.
At a club in Acton, W3 in 1951, I was able to make my other contribution to the progress of Tubby' s too-short 22-year jazz career, by helping instigate another significant sit-in—with the great brassman Kenny Baker. As a result. Tubby turned professional at 16, and spent a year with the Baker Sextet. His route continued through various partly-commercial big bands—Ambrose, Vic Lewis, Jack Parnell—along with making the most of more pure jazz situations, such as his eight-piece and the Downbeat Big Band.
It was in 1961 that Tubby started a series of successful trips to the States, in a reciprocal Union exchange deal that enabled Zoot Sims to be the first American musician to appear in Ronnie's. In New York he discovered: '"Most of the musicians that I met over there are very much more conscientious than they are over here—because it' s tough. Even if they've got a name, there' s so much competition. But there is a lot of enthusiasm. and a lot of hard work—which is probably why they come up with such good players." He was invited to play and record with some of the very best—trumpet giant Clark Terry, saxophone aces Roland Kirk, James Moody. Paul Gonsalves and Benny Golson, supported by such sterling rhythm men as Eddie Costa, Walter Bishop Jr., Cedar Walton, Sam Jones and Louis Hayes. Nevertheless, he consistently voiced his strong allegiance to his British session-mates—in fact, when it was suggested that he might follow the examples of such compatriots as Shearing and Feldman and move to the USA to work, he made this prophetic statement: "I would like to go over and work there for a while—but I do think that in a few years' time it won't be so important. Jazz is getting so international."
The steadily improving quality of home-grown jazz at this time is evident from these performances I captured on tape in 1964 and 1965, during that glorious opening decade In the Scott Club' s history. Three facets of Tubby' s talent are not represented here: the writing—he cites some of its origins in the interview; the flute, in which he emulated Roland Kirk' s humming effects; the vibes. which he added after purchasing Victor Feldman's original instrument, having been inspired by his playing. But there' s a substantial feast of his much-admired tenor interpretations—a selection of upbeat highlights from just four of many exciting nights.
In spite of the symbolic Ronnie intro, Opus Ocean, one of several compositions given to Tubby by Clark Terry, was actually the final item in one of the first of his sets that I had the chance to record, after being "installed" by Ronnie and Pete. I chose it as a prime example of the classic quintet he had with the late Scots-born trumpet man, Jimmy Deuchar. whom I knew originally as a member of the Dankworth Seven in that same 1950 club. Jimmy's dazzling technique kicks off this fleet flagwaver, as a prelude to a stunning seven-minute Tubby solo, four minutes of which are exactly that—the tenor all alone, unaccompanied, pouring out a ceaseless flow of creativity.
The remainder of the CD illustrates how Tubby, In a quartet setting, could take major standard songs and fashion immensely personal jazz out of them, usually giving the actual melody no more than a token reference. A Weaver Of Dreams, a superior chord sequence still relatively rarely used, is exploited with maximum expertise. Pianist Terry Shannon, still Tubby' s first choice fourteen months later, is tellingly heard. After a spate of fours and a fine Clyne spot, Tubby takes it out with a slowed-down coda. Nobody Else But Me is also far from overdone considering its useable properties, and follows a similarly satisfying course to its predecessor that night, with the exchanges with the Goodman drums being increased to eights. There's a break in chronology to allow a "different' quartet's inclusion, Tubby utilising the guitar of Johnny Fourie. who was at the start of a four-year holiday from his native South African scene. His commanding display enhances a Latin-flavoured treatment of On Green Dolphin Street. As a dynamic climax to this choice cross-section from my many Hayes recordings, we have a gem from a batch I took down on the very last night at the Gerrard Street venue, or The Old Place, as it came to be called. By Myself, usually relished by singers as a sad end-of-romance ballad, here brings us some of Tubby' s most forthright, diverse improvisation. His ten-minute tour de force doesn' t hint at the tune for over two minutes, and not again till six minutes later. His absorbing exposition is by turns ruminative and rumbustious, mainly the latter. Another piano master. Gordon Beck is heard to great advantage on an extended intro and a long, sumptuous solo. The reason for the crowd sounds is that this night was treated as much as a party as a normal session, and, as you can hear. the musicians rose wholeheartedly to the occasion.
Tubby Hayes was only 38 when the British jazz world was robbed of his genius. These tracks remind us of what we had, and are part of his valuable legacy.
Extract from the CD cover notes by Les Tomkins.
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