BOOK REVIEW: Simon Spillett and C. Tom Davis – 100% Proof — The Complete Tubby Hayes Discography

100% Proof — The Complete Tubby Hayes Discography Compiled by Simon Spillett and C. Tom Davis
(Names & Numbers Discographical Publications. Interview/Book Review by Andrew Cartmel)

“We missed a trick with the title…” says Tom Davis. “We should have called it The Incomplete Tubby Hayes Discography,” he laughs. “Because there is always more stuff being discovered. Like the film of the 1962 Scandinavian tour which surfaced in September. We scrambled and got it into the book. If it had emerged after the deadline it couldn’t have gone in.”

The new Tubby Hayes discography from Davis and co-author, British sax star and Tubby expert Simon Spillett, is a hefty and handsome volume, just over 240 pages long and spiral bound. It also has protective plastic covers — luckily, since almost my first act was to inadvertently set the book in a puddle of coffee on the table in the cafe where I met Tom Davis to talk about it. “We had to leave out the full sleeve notes for the sessions to make it a convenient size,” says Davis. “If you want to discover who Hayes was, ahem, dating at the time you won’t find it here… Except in the song titles, perhaps. But if you want details of the sessions he was playing, you will find that here.”

A Canadian expatriate who fell in love with British jazz in general and Tubby Hayes in particular, Tom Davis was inspired to undertake this project by Barbara Schwarz’s first stab at a Tubby discography, published by Blackpress in 1990. The Schwarz book was seminal, but there was plenty more work to be done, and a mountain of information to be excavated. For instance, in documenting the Ambrose and Jack Parnell years. “We found a whole lot of other occasions when Hayes played.” It turned into a project that swallowed years of the authors’ lives. “What the hell am I getting into?” was Davis’s reaction at one point. Indeed, at more than one point.

And along the way Tom Davis met Simon Spillett, a man with similar ambitions, and they decided to pool their considerable resources. Spillett’s definitive biography of Tubby Hayes was published earlier this year. (reviewed here), “Our discography complements Simon’s biography,” says Tom Davis. Originally they planned to include it as part of Spillett’s book, but it had become much too long.

In 2008 the discography found a home with Names & Numbers, a publisher in the Netherlands who have previously issued works on Clifford Brown, Buck Clayton, Lars Gullin, Leo Wright and many more. The Tubby discography was still too long, though, so the authors set about trimming it. “At one point we were cutting it down while new information was coming in and making it longer,” says Tom Davis. He roars with laughter. There were other complications. Names & Numbers is a jazz discographical specialist dedicated to accuracy. “We had to meet their rigorous standards,” says Davis, and laughs again. “The data had to be reformatted. For example, all the saxophone players had to be in pitch order. But that was good, it made us examine everything again. Simon and I evolved a really good method of working together. And the wonders of the internet have taken some of the grunt work out of discographies. For instance, the entire scanned archive of The Radio Times now exists online.”

But it was still a massive undertaking. “The 80th anniversary of Tubby and the spread of the internet has brought more and more information to the fore.” And the discography doesn’t just cover records and CDs, but every known Tubby Hayes appearance (or soundtrack performance) on film or television, which includes those where he was a composer or musical director, but didn’t appear or didn’t play…. “Simon and I have listened to or watched everything in the book,” says Davis. “Some lucky sod, i.e. me, has watched the entire film and noted when and where Hayes plays or appears so you don’t have to sit through the whole thing. A lot of love and hard work has gone into this. If you’re a fan, the biography and discography (which complement each other nicely) constitute just about everything you’re going to want to know about Tubby and his music. If you want to indulge yourself in expanding your record collection you can use the discography to spend happy hours surfing the net.” Indeed, my first order of business on getting home with this thing of beauty in my hot little hands was to track down a vinyl copy of a soundtrack which I previously hadn’t dreamed that Tubby had played on.

“Doing the last draft was painful,” reflects Davis, “because you’re acutely aware that the deadline is approaching and you want to get it right.” And inevitably some things arrived too late to be documented. “There was this auction site selling acetates of the first Hayes group at the Flamingo Club. That came out after the deadline.” Davis looks resigned for a moment, then perks up. “But if you purchase the discography we will be publishing updates, online and off. The work doesn’t stop here. We wanted to leave the best possible road map for next bunch of researchers, just the way Barbara Schwarz did for us. If it inspires people to go back to the music — and, better yet, gets people to delve into boxes in the attic and discover dusty old tapes — it has served its purpose.” I tell him that the discography is well worth having because I now only have to watch ten minutes of Dr Terror’s House of Horrors to catch Tubby’s performance. Tom Davis chuckles: “A snip at 27.50 euros!” he says.

Names and Numbers website

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