Simon Spillett

Award Winning Saxophonist


view:  full / summary


Posted on January 2, 2021 at 5:25 PM


'So mindful have we been to bang our little drums in an attempt to draw attention in a lunatic musical world to the deserving talents of those such as Mike Westbrook, John Surman, Graham Collier, Chris McGregor and Co. that we hardly noticed that Tubby was still looking for fresh things.'

Brian Blain, Melody Maker, January 1969


‘For jazz in Britain, 1969 has been a year of hard work.’

'So wrote Richard Williams in his catch-all survey of UK jazz during the past twelve months, published in 'Melody Maker''s final issue of the year.

Williams' piece was intended to be a handy round-up of the most newsworthy of British jazz achievements of 1969, and as this had been a year in which the journalist thought ‘the British jazz musician has finally begun the long process of asserting himself as a world power within the music’ its tone at times came somewhere close to outright jingosim. You couldn't argue against the enthusiasm though. Nor was Williams short on proof. Indeed, several of the year's biggest success stories supported the assertion that, after years of frustration, the determined graft English jazzmen had put into their art was finally beginning to pay off: bassist Dave Holland and guitarist John McLaughlin had recently been working with no lesser figure than Miles Davis; baritonist John Surman had just won not one but two awards in the Critics Poll of the celebrated American jazz bible DownBeat and, closer to home, the UK arm of US recording giant CBS had signed a clutch of adventurous young British jazzmen, including pianist Howard Riley, drummer Tony Oxley and guitarist Ray Russell.

However, as Williams was at pains to point out, it wasn't only these new firebrands who'd upped the game for UK jazz. ‘We've always had fine musicians on this island,” he maintained. 'Men like Tubby Hayes [who] have always been held in high esteem by those in the know on the other side of the Atlantic.’


Barely a few years before, Hayes had been the first British jazzman to successfully “break” America – three years ahead of the much vaunted 'British Invasion' which made international stars of The Beatles and their ilk – and it was in no small part due to his example that men like Miles Davis were now just as likely to go headhunting for talent at Ronnie Scott's as the Village Vanguard.

But for Hayes, 1969 wasn't about transatlantic jet-hopping or high-level US endorsement – it was about recovery and restoration. Even more so, it was about his own characteristic kind of hard work, finding him once again marshalling every part of the energy, drive and foresight that a decade earlier had made him Britain's most saleable modern jazz star.


1968 had been his lowest point. In deep with heroin addiction, his workload had begun to fall apart, a nosedive finally halted by his arrest by the legendary Metropolitan police drugs-hound Detective Sergeant Norman 'Nobby' Pilcher that summer (Pilcher's recently published memoir - 'Bent Coppers' -  should be taken with handfuls of salt). Hayes had always made headlines but this kind ('Top Jazz Star Held on Heroin Charge' – 'Evening News') were the sort he could do without. When his case came to trial that September, he was given a suspended sentence, a reprieve in which to effectively rebuild a career that was now in worse shape that any time since it began in 1950. Steadying his health was the foremost concern. Immediately after his arrest, he was registered with Hackney Hospital Addiction Unit, signed to a programme designed to wean him off smack rather than force him through the agonies of the Cold Turkey withdrawal he'd bravely attempted himself. Aged 33, Hayes was still young, but he was alarmed at the age of those around him at Hackney. ‘80% of the patients where I attended hospital were just teenagers,’ he told 'She' magazine's Edwina Coven. ‘Terrible really.’

But, as in his music, Hayes soon realised he could learn something from the younger generation. Spurred on their example, he told another reporter, James Pettigrew of the 'Sunday Mirror' early in 1969, ‘I'm getting to the point of understanding why all this happened to me. I'm slowly beating that drug – believe me.’


Never a man to to things by halves, his contemporaneous career reboot was a lot less measured. In fact, his work diary for 1969 lists nearly 200 professional engagements, ranging from radio, TV and movie sessions (with such mainstream media names as Andre Previn, Vic Damone, Vikki Carr, Henry Mancini and Lalo Schifrin), appearances on recording dates with everyone from the London Symphony Orchestra to Ringo Starr, overseas club and concert work in the Channel Islands, Ireland, Holland and Austria and, largely organised under the auspices of his new manager Don Norman, the effective revival of both his quartet and big band as UK jazz club favourites (Norman's press releases for his star client brim with copy such as 'Tubby Hayes' New Sounds' and 'Tubby Hayes's Renaissance').

While news of his drug-issues had horrified some, thankfully it hadn't alienated everyone; the readers of 'Melody Maker' had again voted Hayes as the best British tenor saxophonist in early 1969 – his tenth such victory - and a few weeks later the paper ran a review of one of his gigs, praising the ‘sense of showmanship and presentation’ that had long made him stand out.

And it was to be these – Hayes's twin assets of professionalism and charisma – that would help reinvigorate his career during the year ahead. Further proof of his esteemed position could be gauged by the fact that that summer – at the very height of media interest in new figures like Mike Westbrook and John Surman – it was Hayes who was chosen to launch two new BBC jazz series – 'Jazz In Britain' on Radio 3 and 'The Jazz Scene at Ronnie Scott's' on BBC-2 television. The latter's producer, Terry Henebery, who had known the saxophonist since his days of producing the Light Programme's 'Jazz Club', was interviewed in 'Crescendo' magazine soon after the new show launched, and attempted to sum up the Hayes factor.

‘Nothing he does is in any sense hokey as a sort of nice-guy bandleader. He's always thinking about how he can best put his music over, and if that means being cooperative with his producers, being nice to his audience, and being enthusiastic all the time with his musicians, he's going to have success. And there's no doubt about it – people do dig Tubby.’


Hayes also harboured ambitions above and beyond the jazz scene. When he debuted a new big band during spring 1969, not only was it an outfit dotted with new young jazz faces, it was also unit whose music reflected the times, playing Lennon and McCartney and Tony Hatch alongside Duke Pearson and Harry South. Hayes had always been a gifted synthesiser of new musical trends, but this subtle shift in attitude towards pop (of which he'd long been a vociferous critic) wasn't made simply because old heroes like Miles Davis and Stan Getz had “crossed over” - it was also made out of commercial necessity. ‘I see no reason why we can't go into the late night broadcasting field as well as jazz,’ he told 'Melody Maker' that May, noting a recent fall-off in pure jazz outlets. ‘There is no reason why we can't develop a softer, more commercial side, if you like.’


The label to which Hayes was signed – Fontana – certainly agreed, taking his new big band (plus strings) into Philips Studios over several dates during the spring and summer to complete a semi-commercial LP, 'The Orchestra' (Fontana 6309 002), a record whose sleeve notes openly declared ‘his is not basically a jazz album [but is one of] the better popular tunes.’ As pretty and musical as The Orchestra was, it planted a sweet-sounding full-stop on Hayes discography. Having recorded one of the best British jazz albums of the decade – 'Mexican Green' – in 1967 (Fontana SJL 911, released 1968.) a record charting fresh ground between Hayes's signature Hard Bop and the new-thing methods of the avant-garde, record buyers eagerly awaited a follow-up which failed to appear. Hayes had certainly tried to collate a sequel, taping a series of sessions during May and June 1969 aimed to complete an album by his current quartet, with either Mike Pyne on piano or Louis Stewart on guitar. These were nevertheless shelved in order to push 'The Orchestra' (and were issued by Decca to great acclaim as ‘Grits, Beans and Greens’ in 2019), leaving Hayes' recorded catalogue to simply peter out.


Out in club land, however, the Hayes quartet remained firm favourites, clocking up well over a hundred such appearances across the UK during 1969. To the bands latest recruit – 23 year old drummer Spike Wells, who'd joined in the autumn of the previous year – the tenorist was sounding better than ever, with ‘a deeper maturity to his playing and a freshly acquired need to progress and experiment in the company of younger musicians.’

'Mexican Green' had taken Hayes as close as he was ever going to get to the blinding supernova of the John Coltrane Quartet, but this new band – bringing Wells together with regular Hayes confrères Mike Pyne and bassist Ron Mathewson – was altogether more fun, finding the saxophonist bringing his earlier Getz and Rollins influences into a far looser environment. ‘What I like,’ he told Charles Fox of 'Radio Times' in September 1969, ‘is the way the rhythm playing has broken up, not just the old ching-ching-ching.’

Hayes's colleagues agreed. ‘We were all spinning ideas off each other in a rather more democratic way,’ recalls Spike Wells. ‘That was what Tubby liked to get into at that point.’

The new collective ethos also killed stone dead the argument that Hayes was a musician built with no input channel. It was an old contention, one highlighted in Brian Blain's thought provoking 'Second Opinion' study published in 'Melody Maker'  in January 1969, which noted the folk-image of Hayes as a player impervious to the contributions of others and locked into ‘seemingly endless helter skelter trips around the harmonic houses’.

(The notion of jazz group as a true collective was much in focus at this point, with one young British musician, trumpeter Dave Holdsworth, even describing the bandleader role with the word 'fascist' in the press). With this particular quartet, however, Hayes seemed to have found the perfect balance between his own ideals and those of the new breed. ‘[He] certainly seems completely at home with these young bloods,’ reported 'Crescendo''s Brian Gladwell in December 1969, ‘and has successfully modernised [sic.] his approach without losing his identity.’


That same month, the Hayes Quartet made a return to the Hopbine, the well-regarded pub-jazz venue in North Wembley at which Hayes had been featured several times a year since the middle of the decade. Once again, the evening was recorded by the venues soundman, the enigmatic Ted Lyons, with the results finally appearing on a commercially available LP (Tubby Hayes, Live 1969, Harlequin HQ 3006) issued in 1986. Released at a time when Hayes albums were as rare as hens teeth, it was greeted with alacrity by fans and critics alike. ‘This live set epitomises the later days of Hayes' career,” wrote Brian Day of 'Jazz News', who found it ‘a worthy document to his unique talent.’

The Harlequin LP told only part of the story though, with two further performances from the evening left behind on the shelf (its CD issue added three tracks from a BBC broadcast by the same quartet taped in August 1969, but rather oddly omitted the Hopbine version of Cy Coleman’s ‘Where Am I Going?' )

Both these rediscovered gems were issued for the first time on a limited edition LP on the Acrobat label in 2018, ‘What Is This Thing Called Love?’.


Before looking a little closer at their combined riches, some context, first culturally; this is late 1969, the time in which The Beatles released Abbey Road, John Lennon handed back his MBE, George Lazenby became a blink-and-you'll-miss-him Bond, Monty Python's Flying Circus first aired and the 50 pence piece was introduced. That same autumn saw the release of a significant rockfall of classic 1960s British jazz albums: Mike Westbrook's 'Marching Song', Graham Collier's 'Down Another Road', Tony Oxley's 'The Baptised Traveller', Jeff Clyne and Ian Carr's 'Springboard', Stan Tracey's 'Latin American Caper' and Sandy Brown's 'Hair at Its Hairiest' among them. The month before the Tubby Hayes Quartet's Hopbine gig, Thelonious Monk had played his one and only stint at Ronnie Scott's, hot on the heels of arch-avantist Cecil Taylor's London début at the 1969 Jazz Expo. Two months before that, the ultimate British jazz cult-combo, the Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet had folded, Rendell famously protesting about ‘the so-called marriage between jazz and rock [which] I don't believe in’, leaving Carr free to indulge his Miles-like ambitions.

In sum, it was a time of a headlong rush towards the new, of moonshots and Altamont, of an early grab at what many thought might be the trends of the coming decade. Long-haired and mutton-chopped, Tubby Hayes seemed determined not to be left behind.


For him, that December had been an especially busy time. There's been a short tour with Henry Mancini, a series of quartet and big band gigs around London, various jingle and radio sessions Harry South and two evenings' worth of filming at Ronnie Scott's and The Kensington for the forthcoming BBC TV 'People In Places' documentary on Ron Mathewson (excerpt of which can be seen on the documentary 'Tubby Hayes: A Man In A Hurry', Mono Media Films, 2015). The week around the Hopbine gig had been full on including a film session on the 22nd, a further quartet gig at The Phoenix, Cavendish Square on Christmas Eve and a lunchtime gig at The Bulls Head, Barnes with pianist Tony Lee on Christmas Day. The day of the Hopbine gig itself, the 23rd, was no less packed: from 9.30am to midday, Hayes had taken part in a jingle session at Olympic Studios, Barnes and that afternoon he and Phil Seamen had provided the entertainment at the Hackney Addiction Unit's Christmas Party, giving something back to those teenagers whose plight he'd spoken of in his She interview.

When Hayes and the quartet took to the stand in North Wembley that evening, there was little doubt that the leader was completely on form, he and his band deserving every penny of the £25 paid out for their services by host Tommy Whittle.


Although there's little to be had from outlining the many and various merits of the extended performances heard on these Hopbine recordings, it may be worth adding a few choice observations on how its takes on two well-worn Hayes' favourites sit alongside earlier recorded versions.


'For Members Only' is a 1966 Hayes composition characterised by a trap-door interlude during the song’s middle eight bars, the inherent 'freedom' of which the 1969 Hayes quartet plays for all it's worth (they'd recorded a studio version for Fontana that summer, the highlight of the 'Grits, Beans and Greens' album). The leaders' solo is reminder of how, despite all the caprices he incorporated post-Coltrane, he remained essentially a highly melodic improviser, one whose lyrical yet muscular lines here make utter nonsense of all those tired accusations of his being a solely technical musical voice. Architecture and logic are present throughout everything he plays certainly, but never at the expense of emotion or taste. The Pyne-Mathewson-Wells triumvirate likewise play with conjoined passion, further fleshing out Spike Wells' declaration that ‘our proudest collective achievement [was] our loose, swinging feel which buried the ghost of the stiff 'British' rhythm section.’


Interviewed for his BBC TV profile around the same time as the Hopbine gig, Ron Mathewson spoke of how après-'Mexican Green' the Hayes band would still indulge in ‘sort of free periods of music...besides the four in the bar time we play a bit of what’s really called spontaneous improvisation.’ It is this brand of musical co-operation that makes the Hopbine version of a long-time Hayes show-stopper 'What Is This Thing Called Love' (with an arrangement directly lifted from the Cannonball Adderley quintet) such a revelation.

Even late in the day, Hayes remained very much the master of this kind of Hard Bop tear-up – indeed, although this was the gigs closing number there is no hint whatsoever of fatigue or rote-playing – but listen to how the band, having blasted through its usual round of tenor and drum exchanges, suddenly take things along an altogether different route. First, they create a freely improvised, shimmering, melancholy soundscape, almost a pastiche of the Coltrane quartet at its rubato, spiritual best. Then, without any overt indication of a change of musical gear whatsoever they've swung into a grooving, medium tempo modal vamp, over which Hayes essays his own take on the 'time-no-changes' approach beloved of the 1960s Miles Davis Quintet. And hear how it's Ron Mathewson (who passed away just before Christmas 2020) who signals a final snap right back into that arrangements tight, signature vamp. At close to fifteen minutes in length, 'What Is This Thing Called Love' serves as the ultimate calling card for this, the final edition of the Tubby Hayes Quartet.


Such feats of musical daring were still well within his capabilities, but to those close to Hayes there were already signs that all was not well. Spike Wells, for one, had noticed his boss was now finding himself far shorter of breath than of yore. Another close colleague, fellow tenor saxophonist Alan Skidmore, then a sideman in Hayes's big band, had also seen signs of a change. ‘But he was still there, he was still doing the gig’, he recalls, ‘and it was frightening.’

It was also the beginning of the end. Just over a month after the Hopbine performance, Hayes collapsed on a appearance in Birmingham and within a few weeks had been hospitalised, laid low by an ‘unidentified infection’ that was to mark the start of the catalogue of health disasters that would plague his final years up to his death, aged 38, in June 1973.


Having barely lived into the new decade – the 1970s – and arguably too constrained by personal issues to really capitalise on the new challenges contemporary jazz afforded him, Tubby Hayes never lived long enough to make a further definitive artistic leap. As such, his finest work undoubtedly belongs to the Sixties, the time in which he illustrated the British jazz could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with its American counterparts. How fitting then that these Hopbine releases should feature him (and his sidemen of choice for the remainder of his life, only one of whom - Spike Wells - survives) seeing out the 1960s doing what he did best, swinging in a way that Carnaby Street never could, with a hint of jazz-flavoured psychedelia spicing the mix. Taken together, they make for quite a trip.



Posted on January 1, 2021 at 5:15 PM

In late 2014 I was approached by a record label planning to release a double-LP set by Tubby Hayes, comprising excerpts from previously issued CDs of club, concert and broadcast recordings made in the mid-1960s. I already knew these albums well – indeed, I’d even written the sleeve notes for two of them back around 2005 – but uniting their ‘best’ moments seemed like a nice idea, doubly so in the newly resurgent vinyl format.


Two of the live tracks featured were recorded at Ronnie Scott’s ‘old’ club in Soho’s Gerrard Street by journalist Les Tomkins, who during the early to mid-Sixties assembled an incredible archive of tapes made by himself (and his trusty Ferrograph recorder) at various London jazz venues.


Sadly, as valuable as this archive is, it seems almost cursed, with any record company who issued something from its capacious contents coming up against legal headaches. In fact, to this day it remains something of a poison chalice, with its present owners (Tomkins died in 2020, having already signed over his entire tape collection to a prominent London-based jazz label) still facing the negotiation of a minefield of contractural niceties before it can be legitmately accessed.


Much of the problem lay in Tomkins’ own modus operandi. When I interviewed him for my biography on Tubby Hayes in the early 2000s, he was quick to tell me that around the autumn of 1963 Ronnie Scott had given him verbal permission to tape whatever he liked at his club’s premises. Rather oddly though, Tomkins added that most of the time he secreted his tape machine away behind a curtain, taking a live ‘feed’ off the house microphone on-stage straight onto magnetic tape, a decision he maintained had been made so’s not to ‘inhbit’ any musician who might see his Ferrograph and then ‘dry up’, as it were.


To me, this always suggested a decidely ‘unsanctioned’ method, or, to use the more generic term for illicit recording, as if he were ‘bootlegging’ gigs.

However, as Tomkins revealed some of his tapes were made with the Ferrograph in full view (usually perched at the stage end of Ronnie’s bar, capturing much more extraneous noise) I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.


Where things grew sticky was that, while there was no way that these lo-fi souvenirs could have been seen as a commercial goldmine in the 1960s when they were taped, by the 1990s, with the advent of sophisticated audio restoration techniques, they were a veritable cash cow in waiting.


The first label to touch Tomkins’ material was Ronnie Scott’s own Jazz House imprint, who issued around a dozen CDs in the mid-to-late 1990s, by artists ranging from Victor Feldman to Don Byas, all incidently with necessary legal settlements being made with either the artists themselves or, if they were no longer living, their estates.


This situation worked well up until the early 2000’s when Tomkins decided to take his archive elsewhere, a decision which brought him into the orbit of a label proven to have a less ethical approach to releasing the material, which I’ll not mention for obvious reasons.


Consequently, that label, although releasing around a dozen excellent CDs taped at Ronnie Scott’s and other London clubs by artists including US stars Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, Blossom Dearie, Bill Evans and homegrown heroes like Tubby Hayes and Annie Ross, to name only a few, found itself almost permanently immersed in legal hot water.


Moreover, when Tomkins again upped and left and took his tranche of tapes to a new home – Candid Records – the previous ‘owners’ continued to use material to which they now had questionable rights. This mess continued right up until Tomkins finally signed over his entire archive to another company – the current legal owners – a few years before his death.


Enthusiasts for the contents of the many albums that have come from this source, like myself, are always torn between the value of the music and how it has been ‘legitamised’. I for one wouldn’t be without some of the gems that Tomkins’ recorded on his portable reel-to-reel, and I’ve waxed lyrical on more than one occasion about his three volumes of Tubby Hayes (‘Live in London’ volumes 1 and 2 and the 2-CD ‘Inventivity’, the latter I annotated in 2006), which to my mind contain some of the most relaxed and creative Hayes on record. Yet there comes a point when – especially as a working musician, which I am – you have to weigh up whatever historic importance a listener may place on such recordings against what are (or might have been) the artists original wishes.


Would I, for example, like someone to commercially release an album of a gig I’d done years ago, in less than pristine audio quality and without any advance notice, let alone fiscal settlement? Undoubtedly no. And it’s no good saying ‘ah but this is Jazz Legend X we’re dealing with here’.

Jazz Legend X may well be an inspired fountain from which every droplet should be savoured but he/she is still a human being whose wish to adhere to professional standards of presentation should be respected.


So what might you ask has this to do with opening reveal about my commission to write some sleeve notes for an album? Well, to put it succinctly, I did write the notes for said set and for no other reason than (I assume) questions of ownership over some of the material it was to include, the resulting album never appeared. In fact, it didn’t even got off the drawing board, leaving my notes – reproduced below – as a sort of free-floating audio guide to a record you’ll never hear.


Only you can hear it if you happen to own the individual albums from which this set of tracks were intended to be lifted, in which case you can create your own playlist, sit back and, if you’re so inclined, read my accompanying comments.


If not, then it matters not one jot. I still think it’s a nice bit of writing about a nice bit of history...


NOTES TO ‘TUBBY HAYES - LIVE’ 2 LP SET (never issued)

Since his death, aged just 38 in 1973, Tubby Hayes’ life and work has become the stuff of legend: a South London musical Boy Wonder who dared to play the American Jazz Gods at their own game and who achieved the hitherto impossible for an English jazzman – international admiration and respect – it’s small wonder his story continues to fascinate and inspire.

Almost incredibly, 2015 marks the 80th anniversary of Edward Brian Hayes birth. I use the word incredibly because somehow the notion that, had he lived, Hayes would now be firmly beyond his three score years and ten is somewhat hard to take. ‘In a way, Tubby never grew up’, Ronnie Scott wrote of his friend and colleague soon after his death, and it is this image of Hayes - the chubby, perpetually cheerful-looking young man who smiles out of virtually every surviving photograph – that forms our deeply entrenched folk memory of him. And yet, even though he remains forever locked into his youth, Hayes somehow remains a tangible, larger than life figure – as if he might suddenly appear through the doors of a Sunday lunchtime pub gig, unpack his tenor and heave up to the bar for a pint.

Plenty of older jazz fans still recall with awe and affection his effect upon local audiences, but while the opportunity to hear Hayes live may well be long since passed, with the rediscovery of club and concert sessions such as those heard on this collection, something of his in-person power can be felt by those who missed all the action first time around.

Veteran listeners will tell you that, good as Hayes studio-records are, nothing comes close to the impact he could have before a home crowd. One, the writer Brian Case, summed this up perfectly when remembering Hayes in ‘Melody Maker’: ‘For those of us of Tubbs’ generation, he was king of hip castle. Denied 52nd Street and Central Avenue, what we had was The Flamingo, The Florida, Ronnie Scott’s Old Place, The Marquee and Club 51, and that was the scene where Tubbs held court’.

This record features nine tracks of Hayes doing just that, taking care of business in a variety of familiar haunts during his mid-60s peak, all of which are taken from previous Harkit CD releases.

A brace of performances, lifted from the archive of journalist Les Tomkins, find him on his home turf, indeed the spiritual home for this particular brand of modernism, Ronnie Scott’s Club (the old basement location at 39 Gerrard Street).

He’s also captured in action out ‘on the road’ at provincial venues including The Hopbine, the North Wembley hostelry whose jazz nights were organised by fellow saxophonist Tommy Whittle, and Nottingham’s The Dancing Slipper, a suburban ballroom situated over a row of shops to which promoter Bill ‘Foo’ Kinnell lured the good and the great of the British and American jazz scene.

Another track commemorates Hayes’ strong student following, taken from a gig at Bristol University, wherein he makes an appearance as part of a ‘Jazz Tete-a-Tete’ concert package assembled by the enterprising impresario Peter Burman. Finally, alongside these energised live outpourings, he is featured in an excerpt from a studio-recorded programme, made for broadcast overseas, during which the emphasis is firmly on the more reflective side of his many talents.

The description ‘multi-talented’ might well have been coined for Tubby Hayes. Throughout these performances he displays almost all of his myriad musical virtues (the only thing missing being an example of his cork-popping big band work).

First and foremost there is Hayes the tenor saxophone virtuoso, hurtling headlong through a series of dazzling improvisations on up-tempo themes including ‘Two Bass Hit’ (taped with the hand-in-glove quintet he led from 1962 to ’64, which some still say was his best ever unit) and ‘What Is This Thing Called Love’, both of which reveal in spades the intense demands he made upon his musical cohorts.

Then there’s Hayes the ‘changes’ player par excellence, revealed in his artful spin through the devilishly unpredictable harmonies of Jerome Kern’s composition, ‘Nobody Else But Me’.

His self-taught ‘doubles’ (a phrase that hardly applies to instruments on which he was equally accomplished) come to the fore in ‘Bluesology’ (vibes) and ‘In The Night’ (flute), the latter also revealing a knack for composing his own, indelibly catchy, original material.

The dual talents of Hayes the bandleader and talent scout is spotlighted too: several of his ‘discoveries’ are dotted throughout these recordings – Terry Shannon, Gordon Beck, Mike Pyne and Tony Levin, most notably – while the transformational effect his presence could have on those who had already secured reputations for high-end musical excellence can be felt in his friendly-fire ‘battle’ with Tommy Whittle, an encounter that reaches Al and Zoot-styled levels of musical alchemy. ‘Two Bass Hit’ is another example of this catalytic ability in action, during which Hayes’ unrelenting energy prompts drummer Allan Ganley to play with truly inspired abandon.

Perhaps best of all, these candid musical snapshots reveal a side to Hayes which his reputation as a fast-fingered gunslinger has tended to eclipse: that of his peerless skills as a ballad player. His tenor-led readings of ‘The More I See You’ and his own, gently unfurling composition ‘When My Baby Gets Angry – Everybody Split’ (dedicated to his then-girlfriend, vocalist Joy Marshall) both display a sense of musical drama, pacing and emotional climax that is nothing less than Getz-like, while his flute playing on ‘Here’s That Rainy Day’ illustrates the winning effect of his marriage of lyricism and muscle. Listen in particular to his Roland Kirk-inspired vocalisations, a technique guaranteed to move any audience.

However, this album plays it true trump card with the one aspect of Hayes’ music that can’t really be explained away in technical terms, or rationalised in jazz-critic-speak: his charisma. Over the years several writers (this one included) have tried to lay a critical finger on exactly what made Hayes so popular with all kinds of listeners, but few have come as close as the late Peter Clayton.

Writing in ‘The Sunday Telegraph’ in 1964, he observed that ‘[Tubby] goes about his music with such gusto, such confidence, that even those people who are unmoved by it or don’t understand it can see that he knows exactly what he’s doing and where he is going.’ Indeed, when you strip away all the talk of musical daring-do and technical accomplishment, what Hayes possessed, in almost inexhaustible quantities, was utter conviction, whatever the setting.

The majority of these tracks actually comprise nothing more than informal documents of Hayes at work, doing what he did night-after-night for his entire adult life. He may not have even known some of them were being taped – indeed, the jury seems to remain firmly out on this point – but the fact that they show such a highly concentrated level of musical brilliance serves as a testament to Hayes exacting standards, regardless of the venue and performing circumstances.

Able to spin pure jazz-silk in both a pub backroom and a recording studio, not only was Hayes the ultimate consummate professional, he was also a consistently inspired artist – something that is far, far rarer in jazz than many observers would allow. Eighty years since his birth – and over forty since his untimely death – it seems very safe to say that jazz won’t see his like again. Recordings such as these, however, give more than a glimpse into the charisma and talents of a man whose music will surely sound just as good in another eighty years.

Simon Spillett, October 2014


Author of ‘The Long Shadow of The Little Giant: The Life, Work and Legacy of Tubby Hayes’ (Equinox Publications, 2015)





1. TWO BASS HIT (Gillespie/Lewis) [10.24]

The Tubby Hayes Quintet

Tubby Hayes (tenor sax); Jimmy Deuchar (trumpet); Terry Shannon (piano); Freddy Logan (bass); Allan Ganley (drums)

December 3rd 1963, Ronnie Scott’s Club, London

Taken from HRKCD 8109 Tubby Hayes – Live in London Volume 2

2. NOBODY ELSE BUT ME (Kern, Hammerstein) [9.40]

The Tubby Hayes Quartet

Tubby Hayes (tenor sax); Terry Shannon (piano); Jeff Clyne (bass); Benny Goodman (drums)

March 23rd 1965, Ronnie Scott’s Club, London

Taken from HRKCD 8072 Tubby Hayes – Live In London


1. ON GREEN DOLPHIN STREET (Kaper, Washington) [15.07]

Tubby Hayes with the Tommy Whittle Quartet

Tubby Hayes (tenor sax); Tommy Whittle (tenor sax); Kenny Powell (piano); Ron Mathewson (bass); Dick Brennan (drums)

March 1965, The Hopbine, North Wembley

Taken from HRKCD 8195 Tubby Hayes – Live at The Hopbine

2. IN THE NIGHT (Hayes) [4.58]

Tubby Hayes Quartet

Tubby Hayes (flute); Gordon Beck (piano); Jeff Clyne (bass); Johnny Butts (drums)

Autumn 1965, London

Taken from HRKCD 8156 Tubby Hayes – On The Air


1. BLUESOLOGY (Jackson) [3.07]

2. THE MORE I SEE YOU (Warren/Gordon) [5.10]

Tubby Hayes Quartet

Personnel, location and issue as Record One, Side B, track 2 except Hayes (tenor sax and vibes)

3. HERE’S THAT RAINY DAY (Van Heusen-Burke) [12.49]

Tubby Hayes Quartet

Tubby Hayes (flute); Mike Pyne (piano); Danny Thompson (bass); Tony Levin (drums)

March 28th 1966, The Dancing Slipper, Nottingham

Taken from HRKCD 8189 Tubby Hayes – Live at The Dancing Slipper



Tubby Hayes Quartet

Personnel, location and issue as Record Two, Side A, Track 3 except Hayes (tenor sax)


Tubby Hayes Quartet

Tubby Hayes (tenor sax); Mike Pyne (piano); Ron Mathewson (bass); Tony Levin (drums)

Student’s Union Hall, Bristol University, November 18th 1966

Taken from HRKCD 8114 Tubby Hayes – Jazz Tete a Tete





Posted on January 1, 2021 at 6:15 AM

Happy New Year and welcome to the first entry in what I hope will be a regular blog.


If I can start on a somewhat presumptuous note, I’m assuming that at least some of you will be reading this having already followed my posts on Facebook. If so, you’ll already know my reasons for – finally – deciding to bring my writing to a platform which is – fingers crossed – rather more suited to the kind of thing I like to do.


I can’t exactly call this new exercise an ‘experiment’ as writing long-form pieces is something I’ve been doing in various forms (magazine articles, sleeve notes, online commissions) for some years now. No, I’d reserve the word ‘experiment’ - or perhaps ‘adventure’ might be a more appropriate choice – for my recent stint on Social Media, a platform I was fiercely resistant to for well over a decade, but which I finally joined in spring 2019.


Those of you who’ve read my Facebook posts will already know my story where this is concerned; how sharing a mix of historical tales, personal anecdotes and – during the initial phase of 2020’s ‘lockdown’ - a daily diary seemingly helped to create a community of those who not only liked but encouraged my writing and, more’s the point, wanted to read more.


All good, as they say, but Facebook being Facebook there was a twist, one which left me feeling rather like a dog whose tail had begun slowly but surely to wag himself as oppose to the other way around.


First, there was the avalanche of commentary on many of my posts, which combined with my own desire to share new content every day, meant that I seemed to spend my entire day scrolling a mobile phone screen. Still good, you may think, and in principle you’d be right; what I was writing was getting notice and generating conversation as well as ‘profile’ and that, in the remarkably anonymous environs of cyberspace can only be a good thing, right? Well, yes and no.


I’m not, I admit, endowed with the greatest levels of patience. If I like someone, or even if I merely respect them from a discreet distance, then I’ll happily tolerate (if not exactly embrace) what I might term their personality ‘kinks’. You know the sort of thing; forgiving a well-meaning friend who truly believes the polar opposite because, well, they’re such a likeable person.

But for me, there has been a caveat forming for some years now, one crystallised by my Facebook experiences, which centres upon how Individual A couches their particular argument, or more’s the point whether their comment on whatever I’ve written has any real relevance (Forget grammar; Social Media seems to be a free for all where those niceties are concerned).


And, sadly, it was this last point that caused me, late last year, to snap, albeit quietly. After nearly two years of putting up with a series of (often daily) irritants – of which more in a moment – I decided it was time to cut adrift some of the more tiresome individuals who’d decided their opinions were something I clearly required on a regular basis. And there is absolutely no sweet sorrow at all in these partings, I can assure you.


These miscreants fell into a number of well-defined and instantly recognisable categories; the first was what I might call the ‘serial commentator’, a person who believed in their right to say something and exercised it frequently without any thought whatsoever for its relevance to the matter at hand. Worse still, some who fell under this heading did so with a sort of ‘notice me, I’m still here’ vaingloriousness that was as disturbing as it was annoying, sort of like finding yourself being stalked by someone who’s never heard a word you’ve said.


Then there were the ‘networkers’, a group whose commentary and feedback on whatever I’d written consistently and with undisguised design reverted back to themselves and their latest gig/project/poem/masturbatory experience. These people very often got no more than a few lines into reading a post (or at their most base simply looked at the accompanying photo) before heading to the comments section to add their own – and ‘own’ is the word here – contribution. Every so often these premature ejaculations of thought missed the point of the original post entirely, leaving them floating about unsupported, unwanted and without a purpose, like wasted sperm.


Finally – and let me say with no ambiguity this was the category which irritated me the most – there were one of two regular commentators who operated on such an overt level of self-aggrandising ego that I can scarcely believe they weren’t sending themselves up. I’ll call them ‘The Name Droppers’, those who at any and every given opportunity (and many not given come to think of it) wasted no time in mentioning their association with the glittering and famous. One of these offenders was, in fact, so quick to make a connection with whoever I mentioned in my posts – a connection highlighting their own importance, by the way, not just one made to share a good yarn – that I pictured him each day, poised with his finger on his mobile phone like a gunfighter awaiting the instruction to ‘draw’.

It pains me to write this, but I found this just this side of pathetic. The sad reality that this man is also a wonderful musician with absolutely no need to behave like a newbie aiming to impress makes it all the more-so.


And so that brings me here, to the launch of my own blog, a forum in which I intend to offer some choice pieces on jazz (and contextually social) history, a few stories from my own playing career and, every so often, something of a more personal nature, all which will be offered in a environment where I and anyone reading them is free of irrelevant observations, vicarious gripping by those only interested in pushing their own agenda and tiresome ‘me, me, me’ commentary.


That, then, is how I plan to run things here. The only other discipline I’ll exercise concerning this blog will be one aimed at myself and that is that whatever my chosen subject I’ll consistently aim for high standards in every regard – in how ideas are expressed, topics are approached and, above all, in how I tell whichever story I’m telling. I’d like to make each entry a tale that is as well-constructed as it is interesting. And, of course, there has to be humour, although if, on occasion, these pieces stray far from the ‘brevity is the soul of wit’ rule of thumb then I sincerely hope you’ll stick with them. After all, they’re coming to you with no onus to ‘like’, ‘share’ or ‘block’. I’d like to think that – especially in a year that promises to be one of still more debate on the storm that’s been unleashed by 2020’s unfortunate series of events – you might find what appears here diverting and refreshing; a sort of literary equivalent of wiring a sat-nav to a restoring bubble bath, minus the shock, of course.


Well, sometimes...