Sunday, November 22, 2009

Remembering Tubby Hayes

Tubby Hayes is the best jazzman I've known from England. His fiery style is a unique combination of John Coltrane (tenor), Yusef Lateef and James Moody (flute), Milt Jackson (vibe) and many other American musicians he always admired. But he is able to mix all these different roots and influences into a one huge sound that carries lot of complex harmonies and distictive melodic approach. Like most of his American idols he had a troubled life, ruined by alchol and drugs. Finally before he reach the fame he really deserves a weak heart stopped him from blowing. Let's go back and see where all these things get started:

Edward Brian "Tubby" Hayes was born in 30 January 1935, St. Pancras, London. His father was a BBC studio violinist who gave his son violin lessons from an early age.

“As a little boy of five or six I can remember wanting to own a saxophone. I tried to talk my father into buying me one, but he told me: ‘You’ll never be able to blow that—it’s much too big for you.’ So I had a few years on violin and piano—which I don’t regret, because it was a good grounding.”

By the age of ten Hayes was playing the piano, and started on the tenor sax at eleven. And that is when "a little boy came up, not much bigger than his tenor sax", as remembered by Ronnie Scott.

After a period spent playing with various semi-professional bands around London, Hayes left school and started playing professionally at the age of fifteen with the bands of Kenny Baker's sextet, Vic Lewis and Jack Parnell. In 1951, when he was sixteen, joined big-band leaders such as Ambrose, Terry Brown, Tito Burns, Roy Fox and Jack Parnell. His first major feature on record is a live concert recording (by label "Hep") made with the Vic Lewis Orchestra in 1954, a day before his nineteenth birthday. The record contains a remarkable six minute quartet performance featuring Tubby throughout.

He formed his own eight piece group (three saxophones, two trumpets and rhythm section) in 1954 and toured with the group 1955 to 1956 and although a musical success it could not pay its way. The band recorded for the independent "Tempo" label during this time reveal a confident lively band playing many jazz themes of the day such as Peace Pipe, Opus De Funk, Jordu, Straight Life, Room 608 and Man Ray.

Jazz Couriers with Ronnie Scott

He toured the UK for eighteen months and took up flute during this time. In I956, on the demise of the eight–piece, Tubby began an association with the Downbeat Big Band, that dynamic 12–strong aggregation, to which many of Britain’s best musicians and writers contributed. He co-led the successful Jazz Couriers with Ronnie Scott from 1957 to 1959.

“I’ve always admired Ronnie’s playing a lot, and Ronnie I like very much as a person. We had a very good time. I did practically all the arrangements for that group. But two tenors is a limited sound.”

In 1957 Tubby had taken up the vibes after Vic Feldman had bequeathed his instrument to him before his return to the United States. Less than six months later Tubby was recording on them and sounding for all the world like Milt Jackson (on Reunion from the Jazz Couriers first LP). Subsequently, Hayes reformed his quartet, and toured Germany with Kurt Edelhagen.
In 1961 he was invited to play at the Half Note Club in New York; a new transatlantic Musicians' Union agreement meant that, in exchange, Zoot Sims played at Ronnie Scott's. While in America, Hayes recorded Tubbs in N.Y. with Clark Terry, Eddie Costa, and Horace Parlan. In 1962 he returned for another visit, this time recording Return Visit with James Moody, Roland Kirk, Walter Bishop Jr, Sam Jones, and Louis Hayes. He played at the Half Note again in 1964, and at the Boston Jazz Workshop the same year, He stood in for Paul Gonsalves in February 1964 (with whom he also recorded twice in 1965 (Just Friends and Change of Setting) when the Ellington orchestra played at the Royal Festival Hall.

playing Vibe

Worked with pianist/Vibraphonist Victor Feldman and his trio (Monty Budwig on bass and Colin Bailey on drums) at the Manne’s Hole (Shelly Manne’s private L. A. jazz club) in 1965.

"While I was there I did a couple of television spots, one of which was George Shearing’s own show. Mel Torme and myself were the two guests on the programme. George has got quite a good quintet these days, with Joe Pass on guitar, and people like that. The other thing I did was an hour–long panel discussion on jazz. Leonard Feather was the chairman, and Don Ellis, the avant–garde trumpet player and composer, and a pianist called Jack Wilson also took part."

Hayes made a trip abroad with Ronnie Scott's big band to play the Musica '68 festival in Majorca (June 22nd-27th 1968). This line-up was another star studded affair with Tubby joining Ronnie, Derek Humble, Roy Willox and Ray Warleigh in the saxes. Jimmy Deuchar, Derek Watkins, Benny Bailey and Kenny Wheeler were the trumpet section. Keith Christie, Ake Persson and Nat Peck comprised the trombone line-up. The “all star” rhythm section was John McLaughlin, Gordon Beck, Lennie Bush and Kenny Clare!

He played with the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland big band in Venice 1969. Number of excellent albums in the late 60s that starts with Mexican Green and preceded by several other albums all recorded for the Fontana label.
In 1969 he formed a new quartet with guitarist Louis Stewart and drummer Spike Wells. He had a new interest in free jazz and rock music and dabbled with the format working from time to time with Georgie Fame as well as his now settled quartet format including the Mike Pyne and Ron Matthewson rhythm team. An excellent Live 1969 CD, captures one of Tubby's final gigs with this quartet.

But by early 1970 health problems resurfaced when doctors discovered he had a faulty heart valve. He underwent an operation a year later and was out of action for the whole of 1971. When Tubby made his comeback in early 1972, the jazz scene had changed. The avant-garde was on full-force and jazz rock had ravaged the music. Tubby's rejected the changes and his reaction was to go out and do straight-ahead gigs with his reformed quartet, playing much the same repertoire as he had done a decade earlier. He began his comeback with an overseas tour, making a successful trip to Scandinavia in February 1972. This tour is commemorated on the Storyville CD, Quartet in Scandinavia. Although now in poor health he worked on until another collapse before what transpired to be his final public appearance in Brighton in May 1973. Doctors confirmed that the replacement heart valve was failing and that a second operation was necessary. He died from complications undergoing surgery on June 8th, 1973, at the aged just thirty- eight. He was cremated and interred at the Golders Green Crematorium.

Hayes appeared in a number of films, including All Night Long (1961) with Charles Mingus and Dave Brubeck, and (with his quintet) in The Beauty Jungle (1964) and excellent Dr Terror's House of Horrors (1965). He also played at a wide range of jazz festivals, including Reading, Windsor, Antibes, Lugano, Vienna, and Berlin.

-- Ehsan Khoshbakht

See Also:


  1. Any idea where to find the album below?

    Tubby Hayes and the Paul Gonsalves - Just Friends

  2. Sorry, not any online source that I know, Vinyl.

  3. is there any way download from ur blog by any chance

  4. You've got a great blog. Thanks for writing about music. I've added you to the links/blogroll section of my blog. I'm dying to hear the Tubby Hayes session with Louis Hayes, Sam Jones, and Roland Kirk and I'll have to make a search for that disc. In the US, I think many jazzfans overlook Tubby Hayes and other British musicians.

    1. Thanks Christopher. Hope you can find the Return Visit! album, or alternatively, listen to all or some of it (depending on its copy right status in the US) on Spotify, via this link: