‘The surprising thing is that Tubby still retains such enormous zest for his work...Most lumberjacks would collapse under the strain. Yet I’ve never heard Tubby give a substandard performance or even talk with anything less than enthusiasm for his work.’
Bob Dawbarn, Melody Maker, October 2nd 1965
The pages of Britain’s leading ‘society’ magazine, weren’t exactly where you’d expect to find an unreconstructed modern jazz icon, certainly not in 1965, the year which marked the sixty-fourth anniversary of the venerable institution that was the Tatler. Yet in March 1965 this is precisely where you’d have encountered one such figure – a musician of such ability, gravitas and charisma that he had, over the preceding decade, come to be regarded as a figurehead for the entire movement of UK-based modern jazz; Edward Brian ‘Tubby’ Hayes. That Hayes should feature in these surroundings was actually less of a surprise than it might initially appear. Son of a well-to-do society bandleader, product of a minor public school and, when not wanting to appear authentically ‘London’, possessor of a well-modulated, precise speaking voice, in another life he might have made the perfect fit for a profession other than jazz, living out his life as plain Edward rather than colourful Tubby. As it was, he had first made the Tatler’s columns a few years earlier, when its resident jazz fan, The Honourable Gerald Lascelles – first cousin of HRH Queen Elizabeth II, no less – had dismissed his 1958 one-man-band EP The Eighth Wonder with the observation that ‘for once even the rotund Tubby has bitten off more than he can chew!’
There were no such put-downs in the March 17th 1965 issue; quite the opposite, in fact, Hayes being pictured together with his former colleague, fellow tenor saxophonist and sometime employer Ronnie Scott and the American guest artist then gracing the stage of Scott’s Gerrard Street Club, pianist Bill Evans. In a piece examining the capital’s jazz venues, strap-lined ‘The Tenor Line’, Hayes ‘constant appearances during the club’s five and a-half year history’ were made clear to be crucial to the entire Scott operation. There was also mention of what was widely regarded as his finest hour to date, his appearance with the Duke Ellington orchestra at The Royal Festival Hall the previous year, ‘at a moment’s notice.’ Everything appeared tickey-boo, and in some ways it was. Or rather it still was.
In the years between Lascelles gentle jibe and Ellington’s endorsement, Hayes’ stock had shot ever upward. In 1961 he was the first British jazz soloist to play a season in an American jazz club. That year he also bagged his own TV series and a major record contract – a rare honour for a ‘modernist’ at the height of the so-called Trad Boom – and by the mid-1960s his was a face as familiar to mainstream TV viewers as it was to the demi-monde counterculture types who hung about the Stygian basements of Soho. As such he became a perennial poll-winner – top tenor, top flute, top vibes, top everything it seemed, winning Melody Maker’s coveted ‘Musician of the Year’ slot with a consistency that would have been sickening were it not backed up by a genuine world-class talent. And now, eighteen or so months into the era of Beatlemania, a musical/cultural tsunami which for a time had threatened to engulf all before it, miraculously Hayes remained on top. Oddly though, Graham Attwood’s Tatler portrait of him reveals almost nothing of his import; kneeling in front of Scott, whose eyes reveal a glint of ribaldry above a smile more like a smirk, and Scott’s partner Pete King - as impassive as a Kray Twin - his chubby face and downcast eyes have an everyman quality; the life-force that was omnipresent in Hayes’ saxophone playing, and in his off-stage predilections for all manner of vice, does not blink forth. Nor does his apparent mundanity reveal that it was during this year – 1965 – that he was to face his greatest professional/personal challenges yet. Clad in an anonymous black suit and gleamingly polished shoes, he looks as if everything is just so; smartly buttoned up, laced tight, neat and tidy.
Yet this was a year in which Hayes was to change, if not beyond all recognition (his weight would oscillate from this point onwards to his death some eight years later), then certainly into what might be termed his ‘middle-period’ incarnation. Part of this transformation was of his own design, both physically and musically, part through circumstance beyond his effective control. All of it was to leave a mark on his character and performance ideals in the years ahead. Still, he was by no means alone in facing this kind of top-to-tail refit. Indeed, the man seated beside him – the bespectacled, blank, ghost-white-fizzoged Bill Evans – was making much the same transition, maintaining a place for himself on a jazz scene apparently heading to hell in a handcart, all the while resembling some corporate non-entity. One thing the men shared outside of musical vision at this juncture was hard drug addiction – Evans to heroin, Hayes to anything he cared to lay his hand to. All this, of course, was unknown to Tatler’s genteel readership, placing Hayes and Evans’ appearance within its well-ordered sequence of lifestyle pieces as yet another of the 1960s arch-examples of incongruity. To this end, their presence plays much like David Bailey’s Box of Pin-Ups, published later that same year, its sequence of iconic black and white photographs juxtaposing hairdressers with heavies, pop stars with popular actors, the message of which was that this was a decade in which old notions of position, place and prominence were to be eradicated in favour of a new kind of meritocracy.
Nothing from here on in was sacred, 1965 laying the oddly fluid foundations of the cult of celebrity with which we are now sadly all too familiar. In his masterly survey of the year - 1965: The Year Modern Britain was Born (Simon and Schuster, 2014), Christopher Bray outlines a brilliantly realized argument that this indeed is the case, maintaining that ‘there is a Britain before 1965 and a Britain after 1965, and they are not the same thing.’ More crucially, in a decade often characterised as one of non-stop progress, Bray sees 1965 as ‘the year that everything changed - and the year that everyone knew it.’
Tubby Hayes certainly knew it, as did the readers of the Tatler. As a young man (he turned thirty on January 30th 1965, coincidentally the date of Winston Churchill’s funeral, another goodbye to ‘old’ Britain) and keen-eared witness to jazz fashion, Hayes could move with the times with reasonable ease; by the middle-1960s the Tatler, however, was more like a relic, pieces like ‘The Tenor Line’ desperately attempting to get with the new scene in town. More radical change was to follow soon after, Tatler being rebranded, updated (in every sense) and generally sexed up as London Life in October of that year. This new incarnation lasted until December 1966, just long enough to capture the height of the construct that was ‘Swinging London’. The changes Tubby Hayes affected that year would last longer, effectively seeing him out.
Yet, as historians like Bray, Dominic Sandbrook and others have pointed out, nothing changes wholesale overnight. Popular culture in 1965 bore this out as much as anything; new television shows may well have emerged (BBC’s Not Only...But Also most notably, supporting Humphrey Lyttelton’s assertion that in ‘the modern era’ the corporation had ‘gone all satirical and filthy’), aimed to subvert and modernise, but there were standbys from a previous era that remained as popular as ever (Dixon of Dock Green, Sunday Night at the London Palladium, Come Dancing), not so much holdovers from a passing age as living edifices nobody dared quite question. 1965 was therefore a year that looked Janus-faced, acknowledging a fore and aft of aspiration and experience, its backstory as importance as its future.
I’m not boring you, am I?
Tubby Hayes critiques for that year certainly revealed as much ‘business-as-usual’ thinking as revisionism. For some, he had long been the whipping boy of British modernism, reducing improvisation to a ‘look no hands’ glibness which could prove as irksome as it was accomplished. Several jazz writers had grown weary of what one called ‘epilogues that become, through repetition, first meaningless, then tasteless’ and there was no shortage of Melody Maker readers' letters railing against Hayes’ seeming monopolisation of the UK jazz scene, his brimming technical command and sheer ubiquity. And even when he achieved something of genuine note, be it the release of a new album or a further ‘break’ into the international jazz stage, there were those asking awkward questions, some raising decidedly uncomfortable arguments about whether or not by now Hayes’ continued prominence was a victory more of smoke and mirrors than artistic longevity.
When the Fontana label issued his latest LP – the big band travelogue Tubbs’ Tours – in late 1964, it was greeted with almost uniform enthusiasm across the local jazz press, Melody Maker, Crescendo, Jazz Journal and Jazz Beat lining up to sing is praises, the latter even making it their joint ‘Record of The Month’ in January 1965. Jazz Monthly’s Jack Cooke, a writer incisive at best, destructive at worst, however, heard a problem. ‘There is something static in his playing,’ he wrote of Hayes’ new on-record performance. ‘He seems to have found nothing to challenge him lately and it is beginning to show in his playing’, which Cooke believed no longer had the ‘vitality and fire it had four of five years ago.’
Reviewing an appearance by the Hayes quartet opposite American Hammond organ hero Jimmy Smith at the Royal Festival Hall that May, another journalist, Michael Shera of Jazz Journal thought much the same, the evening had confirming that ‘Hayes’ tenor playing reached a peak some years ago [and] unfortunately he continues to cram as many notes as possible into every bar at up tempo, and takes such long solos that one loses interest well before the end.’ Nothing, however, rammed home the indifference with which Hayes’ consistent performance standard might meet more pointedly than the recollection of another Jazz Journal regular Steve Voce who noted ‘during a long and boppy flute cadenza’ on a Manchester gig, ‘Hayes leant over the mike and said, ‘I’m not boring you, am I?’ while still actually playing.’
The truth was Hayes was now perilously close to boring himself. On the surface, his career achievements that year were as impressive as ever – recording, television and film work with such giants as Ella Fitzgerald, Lalo Schifrin and June Christy, European tours with a multi-national all-star line up including Freddie Hubbard, J. J. Johnson and Mel Lewis under the direction of Austrian pianist/composer Friedrich Gulda, his fourth US visit, playing Shelly’s Manne-Hole in Los Angeles, endless in-person and broadcast appearances with his own bands, large and small, commercial sessions galore – yet beneath the chrome-plated exterior, he was both a performer and personality in a state of flux. In some senses, writers like Jack Cooke had been right; as unassailable top dog, it had been years since Hayes had faced the necessity to renegotiate his art. Part of the reason for this was the time-lag between the US and UK jazz scenes, a delay which had been highlighted for Hayes during his own visits to America. Yet now even in its ‘swinging’ hey day, London could pall badly when set besides New York, or Los Angeles or San Francisco. ‘I’m not putting England, or London, or any of the musicians down,’ he told Crescendo’s Les Tomkins after he’d returned from Hollywood that July, ‘but I do think that the environment tends to make you a little complacent at times. And that includes myself, when I’m here for too long.’
Although he’d almost given up on the idea of permanently relocating to the US by mid-1965 (for reasons combining practicality and vanity, according to several fellow musicians), exposure to the best America could offer had substantially altered his musical aims. As early as 1961 he was claiming John Coltrane as ‘my favourite’, the great tenor pioneer’s visionary extension of jazz eventually inspiring Hayes to disband his poll-winning hard bop quintet (1962-64) is search of a freer approach. Hearing his hero in-person was a further boost, Hayes finding Coltrane ‘the hottest thing going in New York’, the saxophonist’s group playing music which ‘builds and builds.’ What it was building was moot; to Hayes himself Coltrane was assembling a surmountable obstacle, a challenge greater than the conventional time and changes assault course he’d been running for over a decade. For those close to the Englishman who were less convinced, Coltrane had constructed a brick-wall into which both theirs and Hayes’ abilities collided headlong. Jazz Journal had been bold enough to suggest that as a saxophonist he’d ‘unwittingly undermined his own purpose’ in attempting to pursue Coltrane’s muse. Others reacted less objectively. ‘He was getting into the sort of Coltrane way of playing,’ remembered drummer Allan Ganley when discussing the end of the Hayes quintet. ‘Not my thing at all.’ The question remained; was it really Hayes’s too?
Coltrane’s wasn’t the only radical voice playing in the saxophonist’s inner-ear in 1965. That January, post-bop’s other leading tenor, Sonny Rollins had alighted at Ronnie Scott’s club for a month-long season that transpired to be a masterclass in musical spontaneity. The American saxophone colossus’s all-in approach – which The Observer’s Benny Green had colourfully described as ‘like a vast rubbish dump sprinkled with pearls’ - was essentially to follow his own thought-patterns wherever they might lead, a commendable enough exercise in artistic honesty which made for the devil’s own job for Rollins’ accompanists. At times, this modus operandi worked spectacularly; at others Rollins was like a man thumbing magazines on a bookstall, dipping into this text or that, his readings rarely reaching a logical conclusion. Hayes declared himself knocked out, thinking he’d heard music ‘straight down the line – but a very advanced straight down the line.’ London though had never really heard anything quite as daring before (and wouldn’t again until maverick free-jazz father Ornette Coleman played his UK debut – in Croydon of all places! - that summer) but between Rollins quirky catch-all weirdness and Coltrane’s earnest inside-out redesign of the classic tenor-piano-bass-drums quartet Hayes had pretty much mapped out the parameters of his path ahead.
Realising this journey was as difficult as it was brave, and not just for musical reasons. Unlike Coltrane and Rollins – who by the middle-1960s had left their years of personal addiction well behind them – Hayes was carrying a sizeable monkey on his back in the shape of serious (and still unregistered) heroin habit. In what is one of the most candid accounts of a legendary jazzman’s pain ever recorded – a handwritten manuscript detailing his life from birth to the end of 1966, which survives to this day – Hayes outlined exactly what had fuelled this habit. At the end of 1964 he’d left his wife of four years and two young children (the youngest not yet a year old) for the glamorous – but equally indulgent – US jazz vocalist Joy Marshall, then married to the one of the saxophonists in Hayes’ own big band, Peter King. Regular domesticity may not have suited Hayes but to exchange the security and understanding of the marital home for the risky proposition of life with Marshall was like leaping from the frying pan into a burning building. Consequently, 1965 stood as a personal annus horribilus for the saxophonist, his self-penned biographical notes documenting a domino-tumble from fist fights to unwanted pregnancies, abortions, arrests, a flight abroad to avoid the muck-racking journos from The People newspaper, enrolment into Alcoholics Anonymous (that Marshall had advised Hayes to join is the darkest of dark ironies) two thwarted suicide attempts, ostricisation by his colleagues, escalating animosity towards Ronnie Scott and Pete King, and, climaxing the year, near homelessness. The press – both specialist and non – had a field day over Hayes’ unexpected ‘collapse’ that autumn, Melody Maker declaring its cause ‘sheer exhaustion’ (the suicide attempt was kept quiet) and predicting, rather hollowly as it turned out, that ‘at this rate the MM Pollwinner for 1970 will be one Slim Hayes’. From Tatler to tabloids in less than eight months; this was the one speed record Hayes didn’t want appended his name.
A very sad state of affairs
There were also what might be called artistic impedimenta, centred, ironically, on Hayes’ age. At thirty, he was hardly a creaking oldie; indeed, he was a half-decade younger than Sonny Rollins and Ornette Coleman and very nearly a whole decade junior to Miles Davis and John Coltrane, both of whom continued to be regarded as in the vanguard of ‘new’ jazz. Yet, simply because he had begun so young – turning professional aged just 15 in March 1950 – Hayes appeared to have been around forever. Add in his popularity (both public and professional) and the imposing level at which he had set the performance bar, then it was easy to see Hayes as firmly an ‘establishment’ figure, top man in the old boy codes that had for so long rendered British modern jazz a ‘closed shop.’
The reality, chronologically at least, was very different. Shortly after disbanding his quintet, Melody Maker buttonholed him about his plans. ‘I’m not going to rush into anything,’ he replied, ‘because for the first time in nine and a half years I don’t have to find work, or new material or anything.’ On the surface, the story appeared to be a sudden slowing of Hayes’ natural hyperactivity, but the real issue was that, nearly a decade into his band-leading career, he was, for the first time, beginning to look a little passé. The less measured critics like Jack Cooke were saying it in print; elsewhere the music itself suggested as much. Again, Hayes was as much victim as victor of his time, 1965 representing the mid-point in what historians like Arthur Marwick refer to as ‘the long sixties’ (Christopher Bray defines this as ‘the eighteen year period that begins in 1956 with the Suez Crisis...and ends in 1973 with the Yom Kippur war’). Not coincidentally, Tubby Hayes career as a bona fide British jazz icon fits exactly this time-frame (he became a bandleader proper in 1955), meaning that by the middle-1960s he’d been a force, and one at the music’s leading edge, for long enough for his original musical ideals – those of bebop – to seem generationally obsolete.
However, jazz, like any art form, rarely deals in neat deadlines of time. That Hayes was still British modernism’s top player in 1965 wasn’t simply because his was a domineering character and a technically virtuosic voice; it was partly because the second wave of British modern jazz had been so slow in gaining any momentum. This was undoubtedly its break-out year though, the twelve months which saw pianist Michael Garrick joining the Don Rendell-Ian Carr Quintet, thus further ‘anglicising’ its take on post-bop, the New Jazz Orchestra cutting its debut album, paving the way for a remarkable upsurge in local (and moreover ‘British’) big band-jazz writing, and drummer John Stevens, a some time member of the Tubby Hayes Quartet of 1965, effectively renouncing the faith of ‘conventional’ jazz methodology for the freedoms of collective improvisation. And within these various branches of the burgeoning British jazz tree lurked further maverick spirits - John Surman, Mike Osborne, Mike Westbrook, Trevor Watts – all men eager for jazz to move on beyond the horizons of hard bop. In this sense, 1965 represents the ground zero of British jazz’s most fecund period – that in which it is widely believed to have finally found its own unique voice, rather than one appropriated from US sources. But again hard and fast lines of division didn’t really exist. Rather, the old guard coexisted with the new, the former revealing itself to be very far from a spent force. Indeed, for all the talk of R&B, free-form and poetry and jazz projects at this time, there was just as much going on in the time-honoured traditions of ‘straight-ahead’. After all, 1965 gave us such accomplished recordings as Dick Morrissey’s Storm Warning!, Harold McNair’s Affectionate Fink, Ronnie Scott’s The Night Is Scott and You’re So Swingable, and, although it might be seen as a cross-genre hybrid, Stan Tracey’s masterwork Under Milk Wood, an album which, when all was said and done, was really a meat and potatoes, honest to goodness, horn and rhythm section piece of boppery.
What 1965 didn’t have was a ‘new’ Tubby Hayes album, or more precisely one which showed where his head was at – musically – in the wake of his post-Coltrane epiphany. It had begun with the singing of praises for Tubbs’ Tours, a record of solidly executed but maybe a tad back-dated big band music, which in more ways than one belonged to the thinking of the ‘old’ Hayes. Within the coming months the saxophonist would at last manage to broker the ground between his small-band caprices and large ensemble ambitions, something which joined up the only disconnected dots of his career thus far. As far as the kind of music Hayes was now playing live on gigs at Ronnie Scott’s and other venues was concerned, however, there was as yet no recorded trace.
(Nor was there ever to be in his lifetime; the only studio-led Hayes small band session of that year was a double-header with Duke Ellington tenor Paul Gonsalves, taped in February, an album which was destined to not see the light of day for a further two years (Change of Setting, World Record Club) and which was, by necessity, somewhat compromised by its shifting instrumentation and ‘guest star’ accommodations.)
Elsewhere, though, other hands were taping Hayes in less formal environs; journalist Les Tomkins captured a series of engaging quartet performances at Ronnie Scott’s throughout the year, excerpts from which finally surfaced on the Jazz House and Harkit labels some three-plus decades later. A further live recording from Scott’s – most likely taped on Tomkins’ in-situ equipment without his knowledge – was finally issued in 2008 under the suitable title of Intensity (Tentoten), capturing an especially volatile session in which Hayes reveals an ear cocked at least half-way towards John Coltrane.
These informal recordings reveal a push me/pull me feel within Hayes’ work, much of it due to an ever-widening gap between the band the saxophonist was hearing in his head and that he was hearing beside him on-stage. Allan Ganley’s comments about Coltrane being ‘not my thing at all’ revealed the crux of that matter. After years of honing a local equivalent to the sort of tenor and drum hook-up of Sonny Rollins and Max Roach, or Johnny Griffin and Art Blakey, Hayes now needed someone to be Elvin Jones to his John Coltrane. The list of likely candidates was woefully short. ‘It’s getting to a very sad state of affairs here now,’ he remarked in a Crescendo feature in July 1965, ‘where there’s about four drummers, and you can never get any of them...There’s some young guys who can play a certain amount. But there’s a scarcity of the ones who can really play as much as you need to make the thing, I’m afraid.'
Although Hayes had given the reason as his increasing Continental workload, his decision to not lead a regular line-up following the dissolving of his quintet in autumn 1964 had been fuelled by precisely this musical frustration; the lack of ambitious accomplices. Whenever a ‘Tubby Hayes Quartet’ convened the following year therefore it generally followed a fixed pattern; pianist Terry Shannon and bassist Jeff Clyne (erstwhile members of the 1959-61 Hayes Quartet) were more or less constant, both men familiar with Hayes’s demands. Drummers came and went though, their brevity of service sometimes down to questions of availability, or in the case of others, unsuitability. Former sideman Bill Eyden was Hayes’ first choice, although as a member of Georgie Fame’s band the regularity of his appearances was somewhat qualified. Jackie Dougan and Ronnie Stephenson made occasional dates, as did three new-ish talents; Johnny Butts, Trevor Tomkins and John Stevens. As anchormen in the rhythm sections of the John Dankworth and Rendell-Carr bands respectively, Butts and Tomkins were undoubtedly match fit, but in Stevens’ case, Hayes’ exacting standards proved too much. ‘I really felt I wasn’t together enough, because of his speed and strength’ the young drummer later admitted. And when even rookies like Stevens weren’t available, he would turn to the services of David ‘Benny’ Goodman, a second-string figure on the London jazz scene whose playing could be as wildly inconsistent as his character. One of Soho’s most notorious jazzman junkies, when on form Goodman had a raw, Blakeyesque drive (clarinettist Sandy Brown marvelled at his naturalness in triple-time signatures); when not things could prove decidedly lumpy, one colleague remembering his playing as ‘like someone shifting furniture.’ Hayes, however, often brought out the best in him, although there were those who loudly suspected the two men worked together purely because of their shared off-stage habit.
I do pretty well
Equally important to Hayes was the kind of piano accompaniment served by Terry Shannon, a player he’d employed more or less consistently since the formation of the Jazz Couriers back in 1957. What Shannon lacked in flash, he made up for in quiet consistency, both soloing and comping with an economy and taste suggestive of his own heroes, Tommy Flanagan, Horace Silver and John Lewis. If he was missing anything in 1965, it was the will to absorb the new approaches of Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock – jazz piano’s most potent new influences – and accordingly when the Hayes quartet went ‘modal’ Shannon sounded like Hank Jones had with Roland Kirk than Tyner with Coltrane; unflappable, measured, treating harmony as harmony not as a movable scalar feast.
Not even Shannon, ardent lieutenant that he was to Hayes, was immune from circumstance though. In August 1965, following a spectacularly lightning quick decent into serious drug addiction (Shannon always appeared the most normal of London jazzers; neat, unaffected, looking remarkably like a young John Alderton), Hayes was forced to sack the pianist, before repeating again the exact line of succession of his bands in 1962, once more bringing Gordon Beck back into the fold. What was more, Beck had his own trio – with Jeff Clyne and Johnny Butts – making the formation of the late summer 1965 Hayes Quartet resemble a game of musical chairs. The issue here was that Beck was busy – very busy – as the accompanist of choice for all manner of vocalists, very often including Joy Marshall, Hayes’ then girlfriend, resulting in the odd occasion when Hayes’ ‘band’ were purloined en masse by his live-in lover. In such circumstances, the Hayes quartet could look very different indeed, such as that which made a brief three-gig sortie north to Leeds, Manchester and Blackpool that August. The leader could, of course, galvanise any line-up, but in this instance that with pianist Brian Dee, bassist Malcolm Cecil and Johnny Butts on drums, resulted in an even critical split. Alan Stevens’ Melody Maker review maintained that the drummer’s imposing volume had wrecked the music he heard in Manchester’s Club 43 (as did an angry correspondent to the paper, who ‘went to hear the Tubby Hayes Quartet but...only saw them’). Steve Voce of Jazz Journal conversely heard Hayes playing ‘with a coherence and skill’ he regarded ‘impressive enough, one would think, to make would-be tenorists drop their horns in the sea by the thousand.’
Voce’s piece also alluded to a peculiar bit of business which had, earlier that summer, almost sabotaged Hayes’ first visit to America’s West Coast, when the U.S. Department of Immigration had demanded the saxophonist ‘prove his stature as a musician’ just hours before he was due to open at Shelly’s Manne Hole. Thankfully, owing to some quick thinking (the club’s management had to present the dubious officials with Hayes’ entry in The Encyclopedia of Jazz!), the entire impasse had melted away almost instantly, Hayes going on to impress his American hosts with playing which leading critic Leonard Feather praised to the skies for its ‘frightfully un-British aggressiveness’. And, as had been the case during his three previous Stateside visits, during this sojourn Hayes was asked whether he had any plans to make a permanent jump across the Atlantic. It was a question that been as much an albatross as a motif for years now, yet this time Hayes gave an answer far cooler than expected. ‘I do pretty well on my own in London, and on the Continent,’ he told Feather. ‘So I’m in no hurry to come over here for good.’
This answer was very 1965 Tubby Hayes, very 1965 full stop, an early indicator that Great Britain’s capital was a place from which you might now operate rather than hastily depart artistically-speaking. There were other factors at play; visiting Los Angeles and playing with old confrere Victor Feldman, then working virtually flat-out as a studio session musician, Hayes had been confronted with a reality far starker than even that in New York. Feldman had suggested his friend could have the same lifestyle should he move over; Hayes’s ego couldn’t – wouldn’t – countenance such a move. ‘Tubby felt comfortable in England,’ fellow saxophonist Peter King later remembered. ‘His success in America brought him a lot of success in Britain as well. I guess he had the best of both worlds.’
Another reason why Hayes pooh-poohed the entreaties of Feldman, Feather and others was the relative insignificance such a move would have had had he chosen to make it at this time. Back in 1961, when he’d first broken the US, Hayes had a whole front cover of Melody Maker devoted to his triumph. His 1965 trip to Los Angeles had still made it on to the paper’s front page, only this time it was squeezed into a small box besides headlines feting The Beatles, The Hollies, The Rolling Stones and Manfred Mann. What had once been a one-man British Invasion was now rendered a mere commando sortie, the American success of British ‘Beat’ making Hayes earlier coup seem puny by comparison. To his credit though, Hayes saw a way to dodge unkind comparison by, in 21st century parlance, going global. America was now one part of a wider vision. ‘Music is international’, he observed that summer, supporting this soundbite with an itinerary then taking in Germany and Austria as well as London and Los Angeles. ‘My scene is that I’m doing more work abroad,’ he responded to a Melody Maker journalist assembling a piece on the overall health of British jazz that year. It was just as well. ‘From the point of view of clubs and places to play “live”, he said of the UK jazz circuit, ‘it’s gone a bit quiet.’
This was an understatement of considerable proportions. The gradual squeezing out of modern jazz from former London mainstays like the Flamingo and the Marquee - R&B having begun to lead the ousting some two years earlier - was almost complete by mid-1965. And with Ronnie Scott’s ‘import’ policy working like clockwork (and greatly aided by the export of British pop acts, the proliferation of which enabled the UK finally to outstrip its traditional ‘supplier’), players like Hayes, for all their brilliance, found fewer and fewer opportunities. The relationship with the Scott club was especially awkward at times, Scott and Pete King affording Hayes ‘support’ slots but rarely his own evenings, leading to a fermenting bitterness shortly to bubble over into outright enmity. What Hayes was playing on these gigs was as good as it had ever been, but a certain blasé attitude had begun to creep into how it was received. ‘Back home,’ he said when visiting Los Angeles, ‘the audiences sit back with that show-me attitude, waiting for the drummer to come in wrong or the sax player to squeak, so they can turn to the guy next to them and say, “I told you so!”’
It was perhaps a slight generalization; not every audience was so inclined to damn. At popular grass-roots venues, like the Bull’s Head in Barnes, Hayes’ very appearance was treated like the arrival of a messiah, true-believer audiences disenfranchised by pop (or the avant-garde) lapping up his no nonsense ‘this is jazz’ message. When his quartet (including Shannon, Clyne and Jackie Dougan) played another similar beer ‘n’ bop venue, The Walmer Castle in Peckham High Street, during the summer of 1965, Jazz Beat’s George Ellis was dispatched to catch the action, delighting in the ‘solid base’ the rhythm section laid beneath Hayes’ ‘remarkable tenor and flute playing.’ Helpfully including the bus numbers needed to get to Peckham, Ellis’s review also usefully reported the band’s set-list in full; ‘Mini Minor’, ‘Alone Together’, ‘Walkin’’, ‘Trane’s Blues’, ‘Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most’, ‘Don’t Fall Off The Bridge’ (the latter ‘a high spot of the evening’ with ‘many rapid changes of tempo’.)
Ellis recorded an enthusiast reaction for Hayes and his band, but wondered, in light of the change of guard at central London’s established jazz venues, whether ‘the day of the jazz group is over’?, echoing directly some of the sentiments expressed in Melody Maker’s ‘state of the union’ survey published that June. In some senses, Hayes appeared immune to such changes, being one of the few UK modernists to have retained a public visibility throughout the rise of Beatlemania. For one thing, he was rarely off the radio or TV, maintaining his position as the face of British modern jazz for the man in the street as well as the man in the club. And, in a year in which there appeared to be nothing but erosion of jazz work, Hayes’ BBC appearances during 1965 suggested exactly the opposite; a spurt of growth. ‘More jazz is being played on radio and TV,’ he observed in Melody Maker, ‘and that’s an improvement.’ It was also a regular stream of income. Indeed, Hayes’ BBC work that year included several appearances on the Light Programme’s popular Jazz Club slot, not just with his own bands but with those of Harry South and Freddy Logan, work for the overseas transcription service (a series of such recordings with the Gordon Beck Trio that autumn were made available on the Art of Life label in 2005 on the album Commonwealth Blues) and a brace of televised spots for his big band on BBC-2.
The year had begun with his current quartet – with Benny Goodman joining regular confrères Terry Shannon and Jeff Clyne – showcased on the then new It’s Jazz, the corporation’s novel format which had replaced Jazz Club the previous autumn. Whereas Jazz Club had presented its bands live in front of a studio audience, It’s Jazz proffered a magazine-styled format in which pre-recorded items mingled with records and interviews. If this somewhat marooned the featured guest band, scattering their work throughout the one and a half-hour duration of the show rather than concentrating it in one full thirty-minute segment, there was, however, a considerable plus point; recorded under studio conditions, these half-hour sets resembled mini-albums, that by the Tubby Hayes Quartet aired on January 25th a valuable freeze-frame of the leader’s musical ambitions as he stood on the cusp of a new era.
Aired the day after Winston Churchill’s death and a mere five days before Hayes thirtieth birthday the five It’s Jazz performances (issued here for the first time) present a superb encapsulation of what was preoccupying the saxophonist at this time, balancing old and new with almost perfect evenness. The opening ‘Mini Minor’ (a composition by regular Hayes big band lead trumpet Ian Hamer, which had been recorded – but not yet issued – on the Hayes/Paul Gonsalves album, Just Friends, almost exactly a year earlier) certainly suggests the tenorist’s ‘old’ style, its machine-precise articulation and factory-finish delivery a powerful reminder of the ideals of time and changes Hard Bop, its conveyor-belt relentlessness calling to mind the efficiency of its namesake’s Cowley production-line, which was to produce its millionth Mini just two weeks later.
An slamming take of Dizzy Gillespie’s Latinate ‘Con Alma’, the tricky contours of which (and not altogether saxophone-friendly key) are meat and drink to the leader, is again in line with what might be termed ‘quintessential Hayes’; the tone still full of the lustrous warmth of Rollins, Mobley and Getz combined, the improvised lines artfully negotiating the underlying harmony in the ‘classic’ modern jazz manner. And, as is the case throughout the It’s Jazz session, Hayes refutes the notion that he couldn’t speak his piece in a few short choruses; in under five minutes he offers up a perfect capsule-performance, his solo executed with a self-editing authority which wasn’t always present in his club work. Indeed, one wonders why, when countless radio, television and recorded performances proved Hayes a more than capable ‘hot chorus’ player, so many critics continue to rail against his long-windedness?
This, alas, wasn’t the only critical red card which they misdirected at him. Another popular notion during Hayes’ life was that he was either incapable of playing a slow ballad or, worse still, that he never bothered to. The It’s Jazz version of his own 1960-penned composition ‘Souriya’ (again, another theme then awaiting its ‘official’ debut on the Just Friends album) again proves such dismissals to be mere poppycock, the leader’s near-Getzian delicacy just one part of its charm. As tender a love song as anything from the pen of Billy Strayhorn or Johnny Mandel, the only shock value in this account of Hayes’ theme for his second wife (Alexandra Souriya Rose Khan, known as Rose Harris) is circumstantial. Just over a month earlier, Hayes had left Rose to set up home with his mistress Joy Marshall. The split was acrimonious in the extreme, Hayes’ volatility over his responsibilities fuelled by a combination of self-loathing and substance abuse. Quite why he chose to play this song then is moot: it may be that the recording actually pre-dates the split (It’s Jazz never went out live) or that, knowing full-well how selfish and ill-considered were his actions towards his family, Hayes intended the performance to be a love-letter to happier times, a farewell to an existence he would never ever be able to repair or repeat.
Future-Hayes is present in the final two themes on the show; a waltzing ‘Sometime Ago’ and a theme-less variant on the harmonies of Miles Davis’ ‘So What’. Both reveal a growing Coltrane-fixation, the former’s see-sawing modal mood reminiscent of Coltrane’s version of ‘My Favourite Things’ (Terry Shannon seems to be thinking more of Roland Kirk’s earlier ‘We Free Kings’, avoiding anything remotely Tyner-like in both accompaniment and solo) while the latter, on which Hayes plays both flute and tenor, even includes some proto-typical ‘free’ improvisation. Listening to Hayes process Coltrane’s influence and inspiration here is fascinating. On ‘Sometime Ago’ he trills and sings his way through a solo that superficially at least resembles the Coltrane of waltz/soprano mode; harmonically though nothing departs into areas of remote superimposed ‘changes’, as was Coltrane’s wont, and time-wise things remains faithful to the hard-lined rhythmic disciplines of bop. The flute too, on which some critics thought Hayes more ‘tasteful’ than on tenor, was a voice able to smooth over any jarring modernity, its inherent tonal prettiness distracting many from the fact that Hayes played more or less the same kind of lines on each of his wind instruments.
His tenor soloing, however, creates a very different emotional climate; in terms on rhythmic language his playing here is less Coltrane- than Stitt-like, each phrase articulated with a precision that is close to superhuman. Stitt (and specifically the Stitt of the brief autumn 1960 European tour with Miles Davis) is recalled in Hayes’ approach to the ‘modal’ ideal; what one hears here is not the expanded scalar-panorama opened up by Coltrane exploring the implications of two successive Dorian modes, it is a dyed-in-the-wool bebopper outlining a pair of minor seven chords. Hayes’ drummer from 1968 to 1973, Spike Wells, later observed how his boss ‘never really cracked the Coltrane language’ and he was right. Instead, what he took from the man he called ‘my favourite of all the modern tenors’ was sheer elan; both were saxophone virtuosi, able to spontaneously execute whatever idea might come to them. And although their respective harmonic approaches remained by and large dissimilar both were united in the sheer heavyweight power of their playing. In the case of Hayes’ solo on ‘So What’ this makes for music that has retained its communicative essence over five and a half decades after it was first broadcast. Hearing it now, it seems – and is – timeless.
The It’s Jazz performance also reveals Hayes’ on-going issues with his rhythm section. The contributions of Terry Shannon and Jeff Clyne are inventive on their own terms, the pianist especially finding a way to accommodate Hayes’ conjoined bop/post-bop ideals, but they too are somewhat compromised by the presence of Benny Goodman – rarely anyone’s first choice, let alone a leader as exacting as Hayes. While the drummer more or less does all that’s asked of him, making a good fist of sustaining the energy and drive of his leader on ‘Mini Minor’ and ‘Con Alma’ in particular, occasionally he’s a little adrift. On ‘Sometime Ago’ he never quite manages to realise the energy necessary for such a vehicle, while on ‘So What’, with its ‘free’ introduction and post-script, he sounds splashy and ragged. Admittedly, such uncertainty might not have been all his own fault; in channelling Coltrane and co. Hayes was asking all his fellow players to make manifest a music which was then still very new, a music, more’s the point, he had heard live in-person barely a few weeks before and which his accompanists had not.
The same general idea was still obsessing him five months later when the quartet appeared on the BBC’s Jazz Club slot (which had been restored, after much debate, in March) opposite the bands of Harry Klein and Mark Murphy. It was a ridiculously busy period, Hayes having just returned home from a week-long stint in Germany, recording with an all-star big band under the auspices of the NDR network’s Jazz Workshop series, and, barely a few days before that, from Los Angeles. The drummer on the German trip had been Ronnie Stephenson, former Dankworth band dynamo who earlier that year had been backing Sonny Rollins at Ronnie Scott’s. ‘[He] shook everybody up,’ Hayes told Crescendo of Stephenson’s contribution to the NDR week. ‘They’d never heard a drummer from England who could do this sort of thing.’ Back home, Stephenson was somewhat less feted, cursed by the tag of ‘big band drummer’, leaving many people unaware of just how well he could power a small group too. The Hayes quartet broadcast went more than a little way to correcting this assumption.
One of the items played on the July 12th broadcast is a replay from the It’s Jazz show (although with Stephenson rather than Benny Goodman behind the kit ‘Sometime Ago’ has that extra fizz) but otherwise the playlist is a mix of Hayes-associated themes of various vintages; the opening ‘Change of Setting’ was a tricky original, somewhat reminiscent of Coltrane’s experiments circa. 1959, which Hayes had recorded with Ellington tenor Paul Gonsalves earlier that year (on Change of Setting); ‘Alone Together’, taken at a surprisingly brisk clip, had long been a favourite with the leader; the Getz-associated ballad ‘Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most’ was a theme Hayes would feature on both tenor and vibraphone with his quartet and big band (a year later he’d record a version during the sessions for the iconic 100% Proof album), while ‘Don’t Fall Off The Bridge’, the standout of the gig George Ellis had reviewed for Jazz Beat, was a composition dating back to the days of the popular Hayes quintet of 1962-64.
As was always the case with Hayes, the presence of an inventive, hard-driving drummer inspires performances that positively glow. ‘Change of Setting’ shifts gears effortlessly, Hayes’ negotiating the harmonic hair-pins with no hint of strain. ‘Alone Together’ sits mid-point, stylistically, between the ballad readings Hayes had made earlier and the later Coltrane-ish roast-up it would become in his quartet of 1966-68, while ‘Don’t Fall Off The Bridge’, a snatched account owing to a radio station fade, gives a taster of Hayes at his full-on best. Perhaps the most revealing of all these July tracks, however, is ‘Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most’, the gentle, lyrical exposition of which says all that need to be said to those who continue to deny Hayes’ comfort with ballad-tempo material. If Coltrane and Rollins were setting the pace of Hayes middle and up-tempo work at this juncture, it remained Stan Getz who was most informing his balladry, resulting in a rendition which soars to impressively lyrical heights.
That Hayes was much more than a mono-dimensional small band bopper had been in evidence for some years by now, the formation of his own big band in 1963 creating a forum for his ever-broadening command of composition and arrangement. The fact that the capital’s brightest and best modern jazzmen had been draw into its orbit like so many moths to a flame also spoke volumes about Hayes’ charismatic leadership style. Such allegiance was useful when trying to make the uncertain economics of a large scale ensemble add up. To this end, there was always something of a ‘pay back’ element to the band’s few BBC appearances, when the opportunity of fees more attractive than those offered at, say, the Bull’s Head at Barnes became a certainty. Still, by 1965, Hayes was attempting a balancing act that was no longer purely fiscal; on and off the continent that year, his big band had worked less and less, its appearance on BBC-2’s Jazz 625 that spring (the iconic on-screen representation of Hayes) marking its penultimate appearance for the corporation. The farewell had come in May 1965, with an especially powerful final bow on Jazz Club, during which Hayes had run through so many of his talents – tenor, flute, vibes, composing, arranging, leading, even playing timpani drums – that compère George Melly had him ‘[coming] out of this evening like Roland Kirk suffering from multiple schizophrenia.’
Yet Hayes wasn’t done with the big band format just yet. Later that same month, the BBC’s Terry Henebery had tasked him with assembling an all-star band centred around the theme of the Commonwealth (inspired by that year’s Commonwealth Arts Festival). It was hardly an unrealistic demand, Hayes being able to pack out a band with more than its share of overseas representatives (Canadians Art Ellefson, Bob Burns and Kenny Wheeler, Australian Ray Swinfield, West Indian Shake Keane, among them). In late May they pre-recorded a half-hour television spot for which Hayes and close colleague, trumpeter Jimmy Deuchar, wrote a clutch of new arrangements. Providing ‘an aggressively swinging half-hour,’ according to Melody Maker’s Bob Dawbarn, the show aired on September 2nd, its starry complement proving ‘there can’t be many bands in the world that could top it.’ Alas, the tape of this programme fell victim to one of the Beeb’s periodic clear outs and no longer exists, a cultural crime which might have left future generations of fans unable to appreciate its riches were it not for the fact that a BBC Jazz Club broadcast by the band from three days earlier survives via a home recording.
Two hundred consecutive choruses
All of Hayes BBC-recorded big band work packed a punch, but what makes the Commonwealth Jazz Orchestra session from August 30th 1965 almost unique amongst this canon is its catholic make-up; not only do players rarely heard under Hayes’ baton feature (largely due to the Commonwealth tag) there is also space for the voice of Joy Marshall, bringing to vivid life a relationship that, although it was to prove key to both parties, legendarily so, in fact, actually left scant recorded evidence. Marshall makes the most of her four set-pieces, an eclectic mix of themes by Benny Golson, Jerome Kern, Oscar Levant and, bang up to date, Burt Bacharach, alternating stridency and strut (think Nancy Wilson) with off-hand vulnerability (think Carmen McRae), but it’s hard to shift the impression of her contributions serving much like a palate-cleanser after the main meat of the big band.
Commensurately, this larger context amplifies Hayes’ tendency for a certain excess; where trumpets might scream they do so with garish relish, where scoring might prove complex it is mind-bogglingly so. There is some cross-over in repertoire too; ‘Change of Setting’ is again the set-opener, this time featuring solos by Hayes and the febrile trumpet of Kenny Wheeler sandwiched between its convoluted stop-start theme statements. Hayes also includes a version of Leroy Anderson’s obscure 1958-penned ballad ‘I Never Know When To Say When’, which he was playing virtually nightly on his quartet gigs, this time exploded into a lush, at times overblown orchestral setting through which he weaves his own vibraphone, Shake Keane’s oddly diffident flugelhorn and (very briefly and incorrectly credited by compère Sandy Brown) the tenor of Bobby Wellins.
That Hayes had to search that much wider to staff his big band this time around is made clear in the recruitment of men like Wellins’ then running-mate, pianist Stan Tracey, and Dankworth sideman, tenorist Art Ellefson, both of whom offer solos on Hayes’ composition ‘Blues for Pipkins’, a fashionable exercise in 6/4 time, the title of which doesn’t, as Sandy Brown infers, relate to an alcoholic beverage but to Joy Marshall, whose birth name was Joan Pipkins Marshall.
Here and there the brass section, headed by the iron-lipped lead trumpet Greg Bowen, sounds markedly ragged (‘occasional roughness...only added to the general excitement’, opined Melody Maker of the Commonwealth team’s TV airing) but this was as much attributable to a lack of rehearsal as high spirits. Surviving BBC paperwork in Hayes’ archive reveals that the band had a three hour rehearsal at North Kensington Community Centre ahead of the TV recording at Television Centre back in May (the band cost in total was £420.00; Hayes himself netted an extra £73.10s.0d for providing two arrangements), but that, as was often the case with Jazz Club recordings, not much more than an hour of top and tailing ahead of its radio debut.
Accordingly, there are moments of pure brinkmanship, most obviously on the two Jimmy Deuchar charts, ‘Double Stopper’, which wrong foots Shake Keane, and the storming closer ‘What’s Blue?’ in which saxes and brass reach rhythmic odds with one another at the climax of the arrangement (this discrepancy may have been more than their fault. When Hayes attempted to record this piece for his 100% Proof album the following year it was eventually scrapped; the surviving tapes reveal the same errors occurring in the same place, once again creating issues for players who could, quite literally, sight-read almost anything).
Spontaneity, however, is the very essence of the broadcast’s undoubted masterpiece, the first UK-recorded version of Hayes’ tenor and big band concerto, ‘100% Proof’, written, incredibly, in the few days he had off between his return from Los Angeles and his departure for the NDR radio series in Germany. The idea had two inspirations; first, Hayes’ close friend Ian Hamer had suggested that he might write a lengthy feature for the saxophonist after, in the words of Sandy Brown, ‘hearing him complete two hundred consecutive choruses one night at Ronnie Scott’s’ (Hamer confirmed this story in an interview in 2004). Hayes thought he could do a better job himself, but wasn’t sufficiently moved to put arrangers pen to score paper until the organisers of the NDR junket commissioned him to write a composition, asking for ‘a ten minute work featuring myself on tenor, flute and vibes,’ according to an interview given to Down Beat’s Leonard Feather just days before he commenced work on the new piece.
Given its last-minute nature, there was really no other way to assemble the new chart but to make it a feature for Hayes’ signature calling card; the virtuoso tenor outing, this time tying together various out of tempo solo cadenzas with improvisations over a set chord sequence played in various tempos from ballad to waltz-time. On the NDR recording (which survives) there is a definite sense of Hayes leading the band by the hand, missed cues and misunderstandings cropping up every so often. But at the BBC Paris Studio on that August evening, surrounded by colleagues who knew (and were more suited to) his muse, he unleashed a tour-de-force, taking in everything from the avant-garde to his customary speed-bop, once more proving that, even within a year rich in local jazz incident, he remained king.
Hearing this version now, with the pattern and impact of the familiar Fontana studio recording from the following year are so deeply embedded in the subconscious, the effect is both startling and disquieting. Perhaps what is most striking is that, almost a whole six or so months before the formation of Hayes ‘classic’ quartet with Mick Pyne and Tony Levin, the line-up so often said to have made him loosen his artistic tie, he was playing with such daring and abandon, offering up a far-ranging solo that even to today’s ears sounds impressive. Indeed, should anyone believe Hayes was musically impotent during 1965, fooled into this understanding by a lack of ‘official’ recordings, then they should prepare themselves for a shock; in a year in which London had seen the creative spectacles of both Sonny Rollins and Ornette Coleman, and heard the anarchic energy of South Africa’s Blue Notes, Hayes could still come up with proof positive of his abiding musical virility.
Post-script: everything is going to be fine
What happened next, though, was to create a quite different legend, setting a template for what proved not to be the next phase of Hayes’ on-going creative ambition but his physical decline. Notice of this cataclysm first came in late September 1965, with both the trade press and Fleet Street splashing an apparent ‘collapse’ across their pages. Officially the cause was overwork but it was all a false flag. ‘Taken to Putney Hospital after he collapsed in the Putney flat of coloured jazz singer Joy Marshall’ (as one paper’ jazz-vice heavy coverage put it), Hayes had actually attempted suicide. The press, not yet having wind of the saxophonist’s domestic hiatus, even buttonholed his estranged wife for comment. ‘I understand he is recovering well,’ Rose was quoted as saying. ‘Everything is going to be fine.’ Only it wasn’t. Very far from it. At the time of his ‘collapse’ Hayes was living what was, to all intents and purposes, a double life; professional and personable in public, dirty and dissipated in private, the grime of increasing addiction adding a patina masking him from even his regular colleagues. Barely a couple of month since sacking Terry Shannon for his off-stage antics, Hayes now faced the ironic situation of having the man he’d chosen to replace Shannon – Gordon Beck –flatly refuse to work with him. What was more, Beck’s confrères, Jeff Clyne and Johnny Butts, briefly took the pianist’s side too. ‘Tubby was going from bad to worse,’ the pianist told writer Mike Hennessey years later, ‘drinking more and more and becoming increasingly depressed. He became very bitter and angry.’ The public saw very little of this volte face but even so Hayes continued to be misunderstood.
The week he’d attempted to take his own life, Hayes had been involved in a nationwide Jazz ‘65 tour opposite John Dankworth and Cleo Laine, as high profile a gig as was possible. At their Royal Festival Hall appearance on September 29th - just days after his suicide bid - his decision to play a ballad in contrast to the hard and fast offerings of the other featured acts was reported not as an piece of considered thinking but as some sort of clue to his well-being. ‘Very gentle gear,’ was how Crescendo’s reviewer heard it. Disgust at yet another ill-considered press dismissal was compounded by a further review of his Commonwealth Jazz Orchestra’s appearance as the closing act of the Musicians’ Social and Benevolent Fund ‘Jazz Jamboree’ in early November, which had climaxed with yet another reading of ‘100% Proof’, more energised and free than that broadcast in August, yet which one magazine passed over as merely ‘the usual virtuosity...blasé, in fact.’ That same evening, Hayes had jammed at the Bull’s Head with American trumpet god Freddie Hubbard, temporarily overnighting in the capital owing to bad weather, playing as brilliantly and inventively as ever. The press didn’t want this story though; they wanted to one of the king pin toppling from grace, the idol tripping on his own clay feet, the force finally spent.
And in some senses these dying days of 1965 set in stone a myth so far wide of the truth that it continues to distort the true story of Tubby Hayes life and work. ‘Beyond 1965,’ says the folklore, ‘Tubby Hayes ceased to really matter, was firmly old hat; a yesterday man in a town full of free-thinking tomorrow people.’ At its most charitable, it’s a tale that politely pats Hayes on the head for attempting to move with the times (read certain reviews of his 1967 masterwork Mexican Green), at its most insulting it’s a narrative casting him aside as no longer worthy of a mention (read certain revisionist British jazz histories). It’s also an angle that ignores Hayes’ own youth – at 30 he was still only a young man as 1966 dawned – preferring to push him upward into a chronological bracket that makes him seem firmly middle-aged and out of time. This version of events even brushes over such inconveniences as his working relationship with Georgie Fame, beginning with Hayes’ participation in the genre-busting album Sound Venture, still in production as 1965 drew to a close. And it also ignores how much, for all his totemic importance as ‘the’ face of uncompromising modern jazz, Hayes was admired by those accused of trying to unseat him. That year, besides collaborating with Fame, he recorded with Peter and Gordon, the wholesome pop duo barely one degree away from the Beatles, and when Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts looked back on his 1965 – twelve months which had seen the Stones rise to genuinely threaten the Beatles – he was adamant who it was having the better time. ‘I hated being recognised’, he told one journalist of his pop ‘visibility’ in 2017. ‘When it was girls screaming down the street I felt very uncomfortable. To me it was so...unhip. To me Tubby Hayes was hip.’ And so he was. And so he is on these unearthed treasures which reveal 1965 to have been a year in which far from musically moribund, and miraculously unmarked by the sort of personal life that could make a Rolling Stone look about as dangerous to know as a boy scout, Hayes made music as cogent, convincing and consistently focused as he ever had, jazz of world class; jazz for the ages.
Photo: Tubby Hayes with Allan Ganley, afternoon rehearsal for BBC-2 Jazz 625, Sunday January 31st 1965 (photo by David Redfern)