Tubby Hayes: The Syndicate - Live At The Hopbine 1968 Vol. 1


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Tubby Hayes: The Syndicate - Live At The Hopbine 1968 Vol. 1
Out of all the Tubby Hayes archival releases over the past few years, this one should by rights generate more than passing interest for several reasons. Expertly mastered by Gearbox from the original tapes and released on vinyl and digital download, it contains four gems, but one of the chief reasons for getting hold of it is the opportunity to hear the masterly playing of guitarist Louis Stewart who Hayes employed in place of a pianist from 1968, the year this live recording of The Syndicate was captured. The Irish guitarist has not quite seen his fair share of the limelight or anything near the recognition he deserves, but nevertheless remains one of the world's greatest jazz guitarists. Hayes made a bold decision to replace piano with guitar, but such is Stewart's ability that from the very beginning of Hayes' own composition 'The Syndicate' it's immediately clear that this amplified string instrument is capable of producing not just fast streams of single and octave notes (á la Wes Montgomery) but that it's capable of producing block chords which, on occasion, channel the sustain of a Hammond Organ.

Stewart's tone produces a "dirty" but limpid sound, reminiscent of early John McLaughlin work, most notably on Jack Bruce's superb Things We Like. On the fast tempo title track, Hayes, for all his lightning dexterity, seems to be producing swathes of repeated phrases almost—but not quite like—at times he was playing on autopilot. To put this into context, 1968 was a year when Hayes' health had already begun to deteriorate and he was sporadically in the grip of his notorious "addictive tendencies" but the professional that he was, any such impediments didn't manifest themselves here. Following the Hayes and Stewart solos, bassist Kenny Baldock, depping from Ron Mathewson, is heard on a walking bass solo and there's a fiery drum solo from another underrated musician, Spike Wells, who was the mainstay of Hayes' later groups and is yet another reason why this album is so valuable.

Luiz Bonfa's elegant bossa nova 'The Gentle Rain' is an ideal vehicle for Stewart, soloing lithely after Hayes, although Hayes' approach is the very antithesis of a Stan Getz one, with his stock rapid fire phrasing propelling the number along. Hayes seems to settle well into Jimmy Heath's fast moving 'Gingerbread Boy' all the while underpinned by Stewart's comping. The final track, and the second number in this set penned by Hayes, 'The Inner Splurge,' is a real treat not least because it is, along with 'The Syndicate,' one of his least recorded commercially released tracks, previously appearing on the out of print 200% Proof. This is a tune which, along with 'The Syndicate' deserved to have been recorded in a studio in stereo. The 200% Proof album was a big band radio broadcast in mono, recorded around six months after this quartet recording. As a big band number 'The Inner Splurge' was true dynamite, but here with a quartet it still is remarkably effective, successfully maintaining a blistering tempo.

It is all too easy to be overwhelmed by the plethora of Tubby Hayes recordings now available and despite the fact that this is a monaural recording, the quality is such that it's surely an essential purchase for all Hayes and Stewart fans. As a sidebar to this, the cover artwork is nostalgically reminiscent of Art Blakey's 1960 Blue Note album A Night In Tunisia which only goes to make this release even more delightful.Volume 2 should be a killer.

Track Listing

The Syndicate; The Gentle Rain; Gingerbread Boy; The Inner Splurge


Tubby Hayes: tenor saxophone; Louis Stewart: guitar; Kenny Baldock: bass; Spike Wells: drums

Album information

Title: The Syndicate - Live At The Hopbine 1968 Vol. 1 | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Gearbox Records

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