Although the Jazz Couriers are widely held to be the finest and most influential of British bebop/hard-bop bands, little recorded material by the group has been available in recent years. Add to this the paucity of available solo releases by the two men who led the Couriers, tenor saxophonist and vibraphonist Tubby Hayes and fellow tenor player Ronnie Scott, and you have two good reasons why this reissue from Ember Records, which pairs the band's debut studio session from August 1957 with a live recording from February 1958, is so welcome.
It's no secret that Hayes and Scott modelled their band on Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, and this is in evidence in the opening number, “Through the Night Roared the Overland Express”. A Hayes composition, it features some effective, Latin-tinged drumming from Bill Eydon that recalls Blakey's work on “Nica's Dream”, from the 1956 <|>The Jazz Messengers|>sides on Columbia. Trumpeter Jimmy Deuchar augments the band on the track, and also guests on “Royal Ascot”, in which composer Hayes switches from tenor to vibes. The unusual tenor/vibes/trumpet front line in this buoyant cut is a welcome step away from the two-horns-and-a-rhythm-section sound of the 1950s Messengers. Hayes' vibes are particularly suited to Tad Dameron's wistful “On A Misty Night”, which he furnishes with a shimmering solo. Of the live tracks, “Some of My Best Friends Are Blues” is an instantly memorable 12-bar blues by Scott, who contributes a couple of frenzied solo choruses. Pianist Terry Shannon raises his game in response and his solo is fluid, intelligent and soulful. “The Serpent” crawls on its belly, its Latin rhythms helping it insinuate itself in the mind after just one listen. The album closes with Hayes' witty, blaring arrangement of Irving Berlin's “Cheek to Cheek”, in which the whole outfit breathes fire.
No mere Messengers clones, the Couriers took Blakey’s hard-bop template and stamped their own identity on it, aided by Hayes’ fresh compositions and arrangements and the judicious use of Tubby’s vibes. Today, Hayes is credited with a crucial role in establishing British modern jazz as a credible force. Although similarly fêted, Scott is known more as a club owner and jazz proselytizer than as a superb player and composer of talent. I hope this fine reissue redresses the balance.
Track Listing: Through the Night Roared the Overland Express, Royal Ascot, On a Misty Night, Cheek to Cheek, Oh, My!, Plebus, Reunion, A Foggy Day, What is This Thing Called Love?, Some of My Best Friends Are Blues, The Serpent, Guys and Dolls, Time Was, Speak Low, Cheek to Cheek
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.