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Tubby Hayes: 100% Proof

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'100% Proof' represented the pinnacle of modern British jazz in the 60s.
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Tubby Hayes
100% Proof
Fontana
1966/2005

"But being as this is 100% Proof, the most powerful big band album in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?



As a jazz fan himself, I'm sure Clint 'Dirty Harry' Eastwood wouldn't object too much to the plagiarising and adaptation of one of his most famous lines, but it does seem strangely appropriate to apply it to one of the best big band albums ever made. But, "and I know what you're thinking , why all the hype? Well, maybe hype is what's needed in order to get folks to listen to something of outstanding quality and originality that's been sadly overlooked for nearly forty years. 100% Proof represented the pinnacle of modern British jazz in the '60s. The stellar line-up of musicians employed on the record underpinned its sumptuous and gloriously overstated arrangements.



In order to assess the album in terms of the canon of outstanding jazz recordings, it is important to avoid the all-too ubiquitous stereotyping of Brit-jazz or 'British ness' (whatever this means) as applied to Tubby Hayes. Although certainly one of the UK's most famous jazz musician by a mile, (perhaps second only to his friend and one time fellow Jazz Courier, Ronnie Scott who was undoubtedly the most famous jazz musician in Britain, probably because he owned one of the greatest jazz clubs in the world, although Scott himself, like Hayes was a world-class tenor player and indeed played and soloed on 100% Proof) Hayes was also England's most accomplished musician and arranger.



His fame was not limited to the parochial shores of the sceptered isle. Tubbs travelled on more than one occasion to the USA—where he played as part of a musician exchange deal. He recorded with many of the greats of jazz including, amongst others, Clark Terry, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, James Moody, Louis Hayes, Horace Parlan, Eddie Costa, and had already recorded in the UK with the likes of Dizzy Reece, Victor Feldman and John Dankworth. He even famously sat in with the Ellington band on one of their concerts in London, with virtually no notice.



So without doubt, Tubby Hayes was a global player who, had he lived longer than his 38 years and been in good health, which had steadily deteriorated over the latter part of his life, would have been recognised as the most significant and talented musician to emanate from the United Kingdom, even in comparison to other later eminences from Britain including the redoubtable John McLaughlin, John Surman and Dave Holland.



By the beginning of the '60s, Hayes had moved from the small British Tempo label to the Philips-owned Fontana label which had international connections and other prestigious jazz stars recording for it, such as John Dankworth. 100% Proof, recorded in London on 10, 12 and 13 May 1966, was a follow-up to Hayes' previous big-band album Tubbs' Tours recorded in 1964. Tubbs' Tours was a very successful session with some wonderful tracks which drilled deeply into the memory banks of the brain. Perhaps the most notable, though least vaunted, of these tracks was Tubbs' own composition, the elegant "In the Night on which he played flute. Other standout tracks include "Pedro's Waltz and "The Killers of W1. Tubbs' Tours really has to be heard to appreciate the dynamism of Tubbs' big band arrangements. 100% Proof was different to Tubbs' Tours in that there were fewer tracks and a warmer sound, perhaps due to being performed by a more well-rehearsed big band that had played together for quite a while.



The arrangement of the title track was Tubby Hayes own work. He also did a fine job arranging "Milestones and "Bluesology. Trumpeter Ian Hamer did a superlative job arranging "Sonnymoon for Two and especially "Night in Tunisia transforming it into something extremely different, volatile and very powerful, and arguably one of the best arrangements ever heard of this terrific number. The final track "Nutty was arranged by Stan Tracey, who was an excellent arranger as well as a superb pianist with a unique style. All the arrangements are so good that they transform what might otherwise be a predominantly 'standards' type album into a totally novel one. To a certain extent it's the arrangements of these standards that push the boundaries of this recording into unchartered waters of cohesion, dynamics and originality.



The personnel on the album comprised some of the most talented jazz musicians in Britain at that time and included Roy Willox, Ray Warleigh, Ronnie Scott, Bob Efford, Ronnie Ross and Harry Klein on saxophones. Kenny Baker, Ian Hamer, Greg Bowen, Les Condon and Kenny Wheeler played trumpets. Keith Christie, Nat Peck, Johnny Marshall and Chris Smith were on trombones. The rhythm section was made up of Gordon Beck on piano, Jeff Clyne on bass and and Ronnie Stephenson/Johnny Butts on drums.



Tubbs plays—with equal confidence and ability—tenor, flute and vibes and positively tears up a storm on "100% Proof with his trusty tenor sax deployed in his typically shaken not stirred style, although paradoxically leaving the listener both shaken and stirred. Interestingly there are a couple of short phrases in Tubbs' solo here that seem to have influenced at least a couple of other British sax players of the next generation.



His sensitive flute playing is heard on Dizzy Gillespie's "Night in Tunisia and Miles Davis' "Milestones where Gordon Beck has a good piano solo too followed by further Tubby tenoring. Sonny Rollins' "Sonnymoon for Two has further typically coruscating Hayes tenor and on the penultimate track, Milt Jackson's "Bluesology he demonstrates his outstanding ability on vibes which is closely followed by an excellent Ronnie Scott tenor solo. The recording concludes with Thelonius Monk's "Nutty where Tubbs takes a step back to allow Ray Warleigh and Les Condon to shine on the solos whilst Hayes can be heard on flute in the orchestra.



Perhaps the defining 'proof' of the success of 100% Proof was its success in the Melody Maker jazz polls of 1968 where it came top in the LP of the year section. Also in that poll Hayes won first position in the top musician, flute, tenor and vibes categories.



Although originally issued in both mono and stereo on the Fontana label and a few years ago disappointingly issued in mono only on a Japanese CD reissue, it really is important to hear this album in stereo. Produced at a time when stereophonic recording was still something of a novelty, it clearly demonstrates how essential it is to have big band jazz spread out over a wide aural spectrum, and the mono and stereo versions of the album do sound different, the former distinctly less effective.



One of the ironies of Hayes dying so young was that his fame was based primarily on his playing and his recordings, yet during the '60s, the last full decade of his career, his composing abilities had begun, albeit in a modest way, to burgeon. It was only with his penultimate Fontana studio album Mexican Green that he had composed an entire album of material. Listening to the BBC recording that was posthumously released as 200% Proof on the Mastermix label, it was clear that his compositional skills were on an upward trajectory. It is quite probable that the main obstacle to his composing hitherto was the fact that he was kept so busy with playing both live gigs and as an in- demand session musician and ironically, only when he, perforce, started to slow down due to ill-health did he have more time to write.



As it states on the LP's original sleevenotes, written by Terry Brown, it was without hesitation and a unanimous decision by all concerned that when they heard the playback tapes of 100% Proof the only title that could possibly be used for the LP title was indeed 100% Proof. This was surely not merely a measure of loyalty but a gauge of the strength of the music Hayes had composed and arranged. 100% Proof will certainly 'blow your head clean off.'



100% Proof is reissued for the first time on CD in the United Kingdom, by Universal, late August.



Related Website
Remember Tubbs: A Tubby Hayes Tribute Website

Related Articles
Tubby Hayes: Mexican Green
Tubby Hayes: The Long Shadow of the Little Giant


Tracks: 100% Proof; Night In Tunisia; Milestones; Sonnymoon For Two; Bluesology; Nutty.

Personnel: Tubby Hayes (tenor sax, flute, vibes); Roy Willox, Ray Warleigh, Ronnie Scott, Bob Efford, Ronnie Ross and Harry Klein (saxophones); Kenny Baker, Ian Hamer, Greg Bowen, Les Condon and Kenny Wheeler (trumpets); Keith Christie, Nat Peck, Johnny Marshall and Chris Smith (trombones); Gordon Beck (piano); Jeff Clyne (bass); Ronnie Stephenson, Johnny Butts (drums).


Track Listing: 1. 100% Proof 2. Night In Tunisia 3. Milestones 4. Sonnymoon For Two 5. Bluesology 6. Nutty

Personnel: Tubby Hayes (tenor sax, flute, vibes); Roy Willox, Ray Warleigh, Ronnie Scott, Bob Efford, Ronnie Ross and Harry Klein (saxes); Kenny Baker, Ian Hamer, Greg Bowen, Les Condon and Kenny Wheeler (trumpets); Keith Christie, Nat Peck, Johnny Marshall and Chris Smith (trombones); Gordon Beck (piano); Jeff Clyne (bass); Ronnie Stephenson, Johnny Butts (drums).

Record Label: Universal Music Group

Style: Modern Jazz


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