Of all the many talented jazz musicians who blazed trails in Britain in the late 1950s and 1960s, tenor saxophonist Tubby Hayes
in 2022 stands among the tallest. Hayes, too, is one of a handful of British musicians of his generation who have been practically deified by some of the emergent young players who are currently invigorating the British scene.
Hayes died tragically young, aged thirty-eight, in 1973, from heart disease exacerbated by heroin use. So his discography, though a decent size, is not massive. Previously unknown recordings continue to be unearthed, however, and The Complete Hopbine '69
is the latest. It is not, strictly speaking, unknown: much of the material has already surfaced, spread over around half a dozen different albums. But this is the first time all of itrecorded at a December 1969 one-nighter at the Hopbine jazz club, in actuality the back room of a pub in northwest Londonhas been collected and presented complete and in the order in which it was performed that night by the Tubby Hayes Quartet.
It is also the first time the material has been made available in such pristine audiothe sound is really, really great; it could have been recorded in a London studio last week rather than on a Revox reel-to-reel by the Hopbine's soundman some five decades ago. The first-generation tape was found in late 2020 among the possessions of the Hayes Quartet's bassist, Ron Mathewson
, who had passed earlier in the year, shortly after giving the Jazz In Britain label's director, John Thurlow, permission to digitize his tape archive. Thurlow worked with drummer Spike Wells
, the only surviving member of the Quartet, and technician Matt Parker to make the transfer. And a remarkable job they have done.
There is more good news. Hayes and the rest of the quartet (the fourth member was pianist Mick Pyne
) are on fire throughout the performance, which is spread over two CDs. In December 1969, Hayes was on the cusp of being forced by ill-health to moderate (on occasion) his energy levels. No hint of that here though. Instead, what The Complete Hopbine '69
documents is late mid-period Hayes, when the technical virtuosity which delivered bucketloads of excitement, but at times overwhelmed the musical depth of his early period work, had been leavened by maturity. Sure, speed of light tempos are still present on tunes such as Hayes' "For Members Only" and Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love," but they are balanced by the sumptuous balladeering of Elise Bretton's "For Heaven's Sake" and the comic overtones of Hayes' "Off The Wagon," which has a playful vibe similar to Sonny Rollins
' contemporaneous calypso outings (Hayes described it as "our country and western, rock and roll, avant-garde, rhythm and blues, bebop tune"). Add in "Vierd Blues," Richard Carpenter's "Walkin'" and Cy Coleman's showtune "Where Am I Going," every one of them played by a world-class band at the peak of its powers, and you have close on two hours of timeless, thrilling jazz.
CD1: For Members Only; Off The Wagon; Where Am I Going?; What Is This Thing Called Love. CD2:
Mainly For The Don; For Heaven’s Sake; Vierd Blues; Walkin’.