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Tubby Hayes

The Little Giant


by Ian Mann

February 28, 2007


An excellent value for money compilation of the early years of this giant of British jazz. Quality music at an affordable price.

Tubby Hayes (1935-73) is generally regarded as one of the few world-class jazz musicians Britain has produced. He was a tenor saxophonist of formidable technique and was also a competent flautist and a highly accomplished vibes player. Hayes was also a composer and arranger and led his own groups from an early age. He is probably best known for his work alongside fellow tenor man Ronnie Scott in The Jazz Couriers and for some magnificent albums cut under his own name in the sixties such as “Mexican Green” and “Tubb’s Tours”.

This 4 CD box set from Proper concentrates on the formative years of Hayes’ career from January 1954 to December 1956. Much of the music features Hayes in the employ of other musicians and bandleaders but there is some great playing here from Hayes and his contemporaries. An excellent illustrated booklet compiled by Simon Spillett, an accomplished contemporary saxophonist charts Tubby’s journey through these early years.

Edward Brian Hayes was born into a musical family. His father Teddy was a violinist who ran his own “palm court” orchestra. Young Brian tried the piano and violin but didn’t take to either and acquired his first tenor sax at the age of twelve. Entirely self-taught on the tenor Hayes was a natural and an immediate child prodigy. He was playing professionally by the age of fifteen and by the time this box set starts in January 1954 the eighteen-year-old Tubby was a member of Vic Lewis’ Orchestra. We hear the orchestra in the studio swinging through a series of arrangements of Gerry Mulligan tunes with Tubby already a featured soloist on “Sextet”, “Line For Lyons”, “Nights At The Turntable”, “Bweebida Bobbida”“Limelight” and “Westwood Walk”. On “Bark For Barksdale” he shows his versatility by soloing on the larger baritone sax. It’s all infectious,swinging big band stuff. These gentlemen could certainly play.

The next section features the Lewis band in concert in Sheffield. There is some doubling up of the studio material we’ve already heard but a quartet version of “Too Marvellous For Words” (just Tubby plus rhythm section) is excellent and provides the sub title for this first volume. Hayes also solos on big band numbers such as “The Creep” “Walkin’ Shoes”, the novelty item “Peanut Vendor” and “Intermission Riff”.

Later in 1954 Hayes left Lewis and joined the more commercial band of Jack Parnell. Hayes was Parnell’s ace with his show stopping solos.  Two items with Parnell are featured here “Sure Thing and “Trip To Mars” both including short Hayes solos. But Tubby soon left Parnell in a row over money and began to freelance around the London clubs.

It was here that he linked up with the brilliant Scottish trumpeter Jimmy Deuchar who was a big influence on him. In March 1955 Hayes led a recording session under his own name for the first time. He was only twenty. This first edition of the Tubby Hayes orchestra included Deuchar, altoist Mike Senn and pianist Harry South, all fine musicians. The material had even more of a modern slant featuring compositions by the Americans Horace Silver (“May Ray”) and Duke Jordan (“Jordu”) alongside originals by South (“Orient Line”) and British multi-instrumentalist Victor Feldman (“Monsoon”).

It was around this time that the popular broadcaster and critic Benny Green dubbed Hayes “The Little Giant” a name that stuck, often to Tubby’s disgust, and which provides the title for this box set.

In April 1955 Hayes recorded four tunes as part of a session under Jimmy Deuchar’s leadership. This leads off the second CD and appropriately enough for a band led by someone named Deuchar all the titles are taken from the names of British beers of the time. There is some great playing on this session from a genuine all-star band featuring Victor Feldman on piano and legendary hell raiser Phil Seaman on drums. For the record the tunes were “Treble Gold”, “Basshouse”, “I.P.A. Special” and “Final Selection”. Titles after my own heart.

Hayes continued to lead his own octet or “orchestra” as it was billed. Shortly after the Deuchar date they recorded two Duke Ellington tunes “I Let A song Go Out Of My Heart” plus Deuchar’s “Deuces Wild” a feature for twin trumpeters Dave Usden and Dickie Hawden.

A further session saw them record two tunes “Fidelius” and “Tootsie Roll” the former being another composition by Feldman. New drummer Bill Eyden who was to become a Hayes regular adds greatly to the orchestra’s rhythmic drive.

Hayes was also associated with Jamaican trumpeter Dizzy Reece and there are two tracks here under Reece’s leadership, Charlie Parker’s “Now’s The Time” and Reece’s “Please Call” an adaptation of Tadd Dameron’s “Our Delight”. In a quintet format Reece and Hayes are joined by South, Eyden and bassist Pete Blannin. Hayes later recorded with Reece for Blue Note on the album “Blues In Trinity” as British jazz impresario Tony Hall attempted to get British based musicians across to the US audience.

The remainder of the second disc sees Hayes stretching out in a quartet setting accompanied by South, Blannin and Eyden. Naturally Hayes gets far more space than in the big band and octet formats and his solos are longer. He demonstrates his chops on up-tempo numbers like “Dance Of The Aerophragytes” but is tender and affecting on ballads such as “There Is No You” and “Imagination”. The subtitle of this second disc, “Peace Pipe” comes from Ernie Wilkins’ rollicking tune of that name which features Hayes’ exuberant, energetic tenor. His accompanists swing furiously, this was one hell of a quartet, driven on by Eyden’s explosive drumming. Horace Silver’s “Opus De Funk” is another high-energy reading whilst “Evil Eyes” “There’ll Never Be Another You” and “Straight Life” are a little more laid back but still swinging.

The third disc commences with Hayes as part of an all-star line up assembled by Victor Feldman who appeared here on the vibes. It was a heavyweight line up also featuring Reece and Deuchar in the trumpet section and Ronnie Scott on tenor alongside Tubby with Phil Seaman at the drums. They romp through “Big Top” and “Cabaletto” and Reece’s tune “Maenya” with great solos from all the big names. Tony Hall compere of the Flamingo Club handles the rather contrived spoken introductions.

A few months later Hayes led his orchestra in a BBC radio session. This is less jazz orientated than the rest of the material and is rather too smooth and dance focussed. The old style BBC announcements sound deliciously dated. Material includes “He’s A Tramp”, “Almost Like Being In Love” “Ain’t It The Truth” and the lush ballad “Sophisticated Lady”. The quartet of Hayes, South, Blannin and Eyden also tackle a novelty version of “The Yellow Rose Of Texas”. This session may have some period charm but the music is disappointing in comparison to what we’ve heard thus far.

A live recording from the Royal Festival Hall is more the ticket. There is a high-spirited romp through “Orient Line” with Tubby introducing the band members. It fairly steams along and is choc full of solos. “Plymouth Rock” and “Doggin’ Around” are borrowed from Count Basie’s repertoire and Horace Silver’s “Room 608” provides this disc’s subtitle. There is a superior take of “Sophisticated Lady” but “Mambo Tittoro” and “I’ll Remember April” are a nod to commercialism and are less successful. Both feature percussionist Bobby Breen who also sings on the latter. Quite frankly the band sound far better without him.

The third CD is completed by three tracks from a quintet session recorded in July 1956. Trumpeter Dickie Hawden joins Hayes in the front line with the rhythm section comprised of South, Eyden and bassist Pete Elderfield. The quintet plays South’s “Ode To Ernie” and Hayes’ “No I Woodyn’t” his first composition to make it onto vinyl. Sandwiched between these two is the ballad “Foolin’Myself” largely a feature for Hawden’s trumpet.

Disc Four picks up on the same session with South’s theme “Message To The Messengers” providing this disc’s sub title. It gives a good indication of the direction Hayes was now moving in. The quintet and particularly Hayes himself are conspicuously stretching out and soloing for longer. Part of this was the influence of American hard bop particularly Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Technology was also a factor. The relatively new LP format meant that tracks could now last a lot longer than four minutes. The quintet took advantage of this with the wonderfully relaxed title track and the wholly improvised “Hall Hears The Blues” a blues based jam that lasts a whole fourteen minutes! Like the following track Howard McGhee’s Nicole” this was recorded with the studio lights out to get that relaxed ambience. Both Miles Davis and Jackie McLean had pioneered this practice in the US.

Another live recording follows with Hayes guesting with an all-star band led by drummer Tony Crombie. Ronnie Scott is the regular tenor player with Harry Klein on baritone, Terry Shannon at the piano and Lennie Bush (bass) partnering Crombie in the rhythm section. Recorded at The Railway Arms, West Hampstead this line up positively steams through a version of Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night In Tunisia”. The second title featuring Hayes is the bluesy “Laker’s Day”, a celebration of Jim Laker’s famous nineteen-wicket haul in England’s test match win against Australia that very same day-July 31st 1956. Most jazz musicians of that era seemed to be obsessed with cricket, working mainly at night they probably had plenty of time to watch! No wonder the audience at the Railway Arms were so enthusiastic. Does anybody know if this particular watering hole is still operating?

When Victor Feldman returned from the US for the Christmas holidays in 1956 he wasted no time in getting his old mates into the studio. A “Ninetet” featuring Hayes, Reece, Deuchar, Scott and Bush plus trombonist Ken Wray, altoist Derek Humble and pianist Norman Stenfalt with Feldman this time on drums recorded “Short Circuit” and “Wood Work”. The presence of Scott on tenor meant that Hayes was once again featured on baritone.

The following day an expanded big band line up with Hayes back on tenor, Feldman on vibes and Phil Seaman at the drums recorded “Blues In Two Modes” and “Karen”, a dedication to Feldman’s niece. Hayes solos on both pieces with Feldman’s vibes to the fore on the latter.

It was Feldman who inspired Hayes to take up the vibes and by all accounts he was a natural here too. Unfortunately he didn’t feature the vibes on record or on gigs until the following year, which is beyond the scope of this compilation.

Hayes went on to even greater things in the sixties and his premature death from heart problems in 1973 robbed British jazz of a major talent.

However, this is a marvellous compilation of his early years with some wonderful playing from the great man and his associates. They were the cream of the British crop at this particular time. With some four hours playing time the odd weak spot is quickly forgiven. Retailing for the price of a single CD this boxed set represents incredible value for money and Spillett’s booklet is a real bonus.

This is the first Proper Box Set I’ve heard but if the others are up to this standard you could build up a very decent jazz library fairly economically. The biggest names are included-Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong and many others. Proper cover blues and folk too. Go to for full details of all the box sets in this series. The company are to be congratulated for making quality music available at affordable prices.

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