Tubby Hayes – Little Giant Steps
(PROPERBOX 176. CD Review by Chris Parker)
A previous Properbox (117) covers Tubby Hayes’s early recordings; this four-CD set covers the years 1959–62, beginning with quartet recordings made with pianist Terry Shannon, bassist Jeff Clyne and drummer Phil Seamen and concluding with ‘All Stars’ recordings made in New York alongside fellow saxophonists James Moody and Roland Kirk, pianist Walter Bishop Jr, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Louis Hayes.
In between, there are big-band recordings, more quartet sides (with Bill Eyden replacing Seamen), an album made in New York with Clark Terry (trumpet), vibes player Eddie Costa, pianist Horace Parlan, bassist George Duvivier and drummer Dave Bailey, and a live recording from Ronnie Scott’s featuring trumpeter Jimmy Deuchar, pianist Gordon Beck, bassist Freddy Logan and drummer Allan Ganley.
All these personnels are worth mentioning because anyone remotely interested in UK jazz will already know all about the albums’ central figure: Hayes was a world-class talent at a time when UK jazz was cruelly undervalued (as late as 1997, when John Chilton’s Who’s Who of British Jazz came out, reviewer Michael Brooks commented, ‘a book on British jazz has about the same importance as a pictorial history of the Swiss navy, or an in-depth study of Irish erotic art’).
Throughout five-odd hours of music here, Hayes simply blazes across the changes with all the fire, power and brilliance of the musical comet he was, always searching for new ways to achieve his goals, quoted (in Simon Spillett’s exemplary liner notes) as ‘trying to get round the changes rather than go for the conventional 7th [chords]. I’m trying to utilise the 13ths, 11ths and the notes that go with them. I’m trying to find the melodies on the top parts of these chords, to glide through the changes.’
Whether he’s fronting a big band or leading one of his fierce, fleet rhythm sections, at home or abroad, Hayes (on both tenor and his second instrument, vibes) does indeed ‘glide through the changes’, not only demonstrating the class that led to offers of work in the US, and enabled him to take the place of Paul Gonsalves in the Duke Ellington band at the Royal Festival Hall in February 1964 – see Jim Godbolt’s A History of Jazz in Britain 1950–70, p. 298 – but also sparking his bandmates (Deuchar and Beck chief among them) into similarly high-octane but musicianly performances.
Hayes admirers may already have some of these sessions (the Scott’s live quintet recordings were reissued, for instance, in 1998 on two Polygram CDs), but arranged chronologically, as they are in these four indispensable CDs, their effect is indeed tremendous and irresistible, perfectly summed up by Spillett’s succinct: ‘The recordings on this set bring back to life the glorious moments when Hayes turned the parochial facsimile into the real deal.’