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The Untold Story of Tubby Hayes: 1965


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Tubby Hayes (above) was a jazz giant whose talent and superb taste have not been fully appreciated by U.S. jazz fans. That's largely because he was British. A multi-instrumentalist who played tenor saxophone, flute and vibes, Hayes began his professional career at age 16 in 1951. His skill and reputation in the U.K. took off and he soon became one of the most towering and exciting jazz figures in the country. He could turn on the heat on up-tempo pieces and cool off on ballads, and his improvised ideas flowed as fast and as natural as the best American saxophonist or flutist in the 1950s and early '60s. 

One reason Hayes is so little known here is that up until the mid-1960s, the American Federation of Musicians didn't allow U.K. musicians to tour here and the British union didn't allow Americans to tour there. The mutual move was to keep jazz musicians of both countries from taking gigs that should have gone to native artists. Not until 1961, when the unions relented in an experiment that allowed Hayes to play in New York and Zoot Sims to play at Ronnie Scott's in London did the ice start to thaw. The mutual ban was lifted in 1965. 

By then, jazz opportunities at London clubs had grown thin, and most jazz critics there thought Hayes was washed up. In 1965, he no longer led a group for the first time in years and did not release an album. Now, a new two-CD set, Hip! The Untold Story of Tubby Hayes' 1965 (RnB Records) tells us what he was up to: playing live on the BBC. Hayes on the new set sounded great. He could wail and sail, a combination of Sal Nistico's biting peel-out and Stan Getz's high-register mentholated lyricism.

The two CDs are terrific mono recordings of three live BBC Jazz Club broadcasts in London—one in July at the Playhouse Theatre, another in August at the city's Paris Studios and a third on a BBC It's Jazz broadcast from later in July. There are two different ensemble configurations—a big band, and two quartets. As this set shows, Hayes was alive and kicking even if clubs had shifted over to pop and blues rock and critics were writing him off.

Best of all, this set is ideal if you want to become acclimated to Hayes before you move backward and forward in time collecting his albums. Tubby Hayes died in 1973.

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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