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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Without A Song:
Rare Live Recordings 1954-73




CD1 1954-63

Bark for Barksdale - Vic Lewis Orchestra (1954)

Room 608 - Jazz from London (1957)

Love Walked In - The Jazz Couriers (1958)

Sonny Sounds - Tubby Hayes Octet (1958)

Swinging The Blues - Jazz Saturday: Dixieland and After (1959)

Cherokee - Tubby Hayes with the Kurt Edelhagen Orchestra (1959)

In The Night - Tubby Hayes Quintet with David Snell (1962)

Milestones - Daily Mail International Jazz Festival All-Stars (1963)

There Is No Greater Love - Daily Mail International Jazz Festival All-Stars (1963)

CD2 1964-66

Modes And Blues - Tubby Hayes Quintet (1964)

Baubles, Bangles And Beads - Tubby Hayes Big Band (1964)

Have You Met Miss Jones - Tubby Hayes with The Tommy Whittle Quartet (1965)

Don’t Fall Off The Bridge - Tubby Hayes Quartet (1965)

100% Proof - Tubby Hayes and The Commonwealth Jazz Orchestra (1965)

So What - Tubby Hayes Quartet (1966)

CD3 1966-73

Sing Me Softly Of The Blues - Tubby Hayes Quartet (1966)

Dear Johnny B - Tubby Hayes Quartet (1967)

Off The Wagon - Tubby Hayes Quartet (1970)

I Thought About You - Tubby Hayes Quartet (1972)

Sonnymoon For Two - Tubby Hayes Quartet & Tony Lee (1973)

Here’s That Rainy Day - Tubby Hayes & The Per Husby Trio (1973)

Without A Song - Tubby Hayes Quartet (1973)

featuring: Tubby Hayes (tenor & soprano saxes, flute, vibes), Tommy Whittle (tenor sax), Ronnie Scott (tenor sax), Jimmy Skidmore, (tenor sax), Kathy Stobart (tenor sax), Joe Harriott (alto sax), John Dankworth (alto sax), Humphrey Lyttelton (trumpet), Stan Tracey (piano), Tony Lee (piano), Jeff Clyne (bass), Tony Levin (drums) and many more

rec. at various venues live (apart from first track from the BBC Light Programme and track 7, a studio recording)

ACROBAT MUSIC ACTRCD9042 3 CDs [59:09]. [74:13], [72:21]

I claim that I can tell when a sax player is black because there is so much more soul in their playing and the only times I’m unsure it tends to turn out to be Tubby Hayes who, in my book, is the greatest all round jazz artist the UK has ever produced. A consummate musician who was proficient and many and varied instruments it is of no surprise that when at 15 he asked Ronnie Scott at his club if he could sit in on a number with his sax as soon as he started playing Ronnie Scott said “He scared me to death”. Just listen to Room 608 from the first CD of this 3 disc set and you’ll readily see what I mean and it prompted excellent booklet note writer Simon Spillett to say that writers on Jazz were already likening Hayes to players like Sonny Rollins and Frank Foster.

When on tour supporting Dave Brubeck in 1958 Brubeck commented that Tubby’s Jazz Couriers “...sound more like an American band than we do”. Tubby Hayes sheer ability is amply demonstrated on all these marvellous tracks every one of them rare, often reconstituted from damaged tapes, and Sonny Stitt’s Sonny Sounds illustrates this in spades. A particular treasure must be the ten minute version of Swinging The Blues which closes with a sax battle between Dankworth, Stobart, Ronnie Ross and Hayes. That Hayes was innovative as well as a risk taker is shown when he teamed up with harpist David Snell for a studio recording of his own composition In The Night; there can never have been many musicians who have attempted jazz on the harp but it works and the small, intimate nature created by the 5 players makes a treasured classic.

I always enjoy listening to what great musicians do with ‘standards’ as it really does give the listener an idea of what a band can do when it is playing something you already know and even may have an aural benchmark to measure it against. One such example on this set is Miles Davis’ Milestones played by the Daily Mail International Jazz Festival All-Stars: Shake Keane (trumpet), John Dankworth & Joe Harriott (alto saxes), Tubby Hayes (tenor sax), Alan Branscombe (piano), Coleridge Goode (bass) and Allan Ganley (drums). The result is a really wonderful rendition of this Miles Davis classic which emphasises its brilliant tune without taking any unnecessary liberties.

Simon Spillett explains how in the mid 60s Tubby Hayes became fascinated with the explorations being carried out in jazz by Miles Davis and John Coltrane in particular and his music became influenced by their far seeing approach. Though Spillett points out that Hayes never “would fully crack Coltranes’ cipher” his music began to depart from the straight ahead jazz he had played in the past. The opening number on the second CD is a recognisable Coltrane influenced tune Modes and Blues that Hayes penned to give vent to these new found influences. With the sort of extended solos that were the highlights of Coltrane’s jazz this piece last a full 21 minutes. Any Coltrane fan as I am will absolutely love it for it is Tubby Hayes with extra spark.

That Tubby Hayes was able to gather together the greatest names in British jazz in evidenced by the next tune Bauble, Bangles and Beads in a brilliant arrangement by sideman, trumpeter Ian Hamer from May 1964 when in his big band he had among others Les Condon and Jimmy Deuchar on trumpets, Peter King and Bobby Wellins on tenor saxes, Terry Shannon on piano, Freddie Logan on bass and his regular drummer, the wonderful Allan Ganley – what a line-up!

Spillett rightly points out the significance of the 19 minute rendition of Have You Met Miss Jones a Rodgers and Hart original that the two main protagonists here, Hayes and leader Tommy Whittle, make their own. That spark I mentioned above is enough here to inspire Tommy Whittle to produce a performance that Spillett says is among the best he ever committed to tape and the two sax players improvise gloriously in a thrilling attempt to outdo each other. Listen out for young Ron Matthewson’s beautifully inventive bass solo around 14 minutes in.

100% Proof is well titled as witnessed by a wonderfully blistering solo that closes this Hayes original and the audience shows its appreciation by erupting quite understandably. Closing this second CD in the set is an extremely tuneful account of Miles Davis’ So What with Tubby using his prowess on the flute to enchanting effect.

CD3 opens with another tune in which Hayes shows his seeming preference for the flute at the time with a superbly melodic performance of Carla Bley’s Sing Me Softly Of The Blues on which he shows his new found interest in the Roland Kirk style of playing with its often strange sounds added to the notes. It is often said that the best jazz is never recorded and sometimes it is almost but not quite recorded as in this regrettably incomplete version which just fades away tantalisingly as did So What.

A tribute to Hayes’ drummer Johnny Butts who was killed in a car crash in 1966 Dear Johnny B shows the greatness of Tubby Hayes as composer and performer as well as anything he ever did with fantastic extended solos within a brilliant tune that will have you believe you know it even if you’ve never heard it before, for my money a measure of a truly great tune.

Another example of that last statement is his Off The Wagon which like so many of his compositions is good enough to be classed as a standard as anything from the Great American Song Book. This is thought to have been played and recorded at bassist Ron Matthewson’s West Kensington flat; if the neighbours were jazz fans they were lucky indeed but if not they will have been thankful that it was short in length.

With his health now an issue the 1972 recording of I Thought About You finds Tubby in a more relaxed and reflective mood that helps deliver a really gorgeous version of this lovely tune with Mike Pyne’s piano turning out a dreamily delicious solo followed by Darryl Runswick’s beautiful bass lines.

The somewhat ‘muddy’ recording of Sonny Rollins’ Sonnymoon For Two spoils an otherwise great number on which Hayes delivers some characteristically muscular solos despite his failing health and is accompanied by pianist Tony Lee a player Spillett reminds us sounded akin to the great Errol Garner.

The penultimate track in this 3 CD set is taken from one of Hayes’ foreign gigs which must have proved taxing for him in February 1973 after some hospitalisation due to increasing heart problems. Here he is playing alongside the Per Husby Trio at the Molde Jazz Festival in Norway. Again he is heard in gentle and reflective solos rather than the all guns blazing ones of his past but whatever he played it was always top quality.

The set’s title track is the last and Without A Song was recorded on March 8th 1973 at the Top Alex in Southend-on-Sea at the club run by friends Bix Curtis and Kenny Baxter. As the booklet notes explain things had changed a great deal since Hayes’ heyday and his band on this night which included Mike Pyne on piano, Ron Matthewson on bass and drummer Spike Wells were promised “£70 in cash on the night without tax or signature” a far cry from the time when he would have commanded a great deal more. The notes emphasise how ironic it was that someone who had taken the jazz world by storm over the years and been admired by such as Miles Davis and Duke Ellington should play his final few gigs at dingy venues in places like Southend to “rowdy uninterested punters” with “woefully out-of-tune pub pianos”. However, despite all that Hayes’ artistry shone through as it always did. The notes end by explaining how Tubby and promoter, Essex saxophonist exchanged pleasantries as Tubby was about to drive off in his van with Baxter promising another gig soon to which Tubby replied he probably had to go into hospital again and that he would call him when he came out – he never did. Edward Brian “Tubby” Hayes died on June 8th 1973 aged 38 causing the greatest loss in British post war jazz history and leaving a void that was difficult to fill since Tubby Hayes was such a towering personality who was not just a brilliant multi-instrumentalist but a highly talented composer and innovator who brought to British jazz something of the magic of New York’s jazz scene and enriched the lives of all who saw him and added immeasurably to the recorded legacy we can enjoy today and always. These 3 discs are gems to be prized adding a wealth of rare recordings to the rest of the wonderful discs we have of this unique jazz legend.

Steve Arloff

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