Tubby Hayes – Tubby’s New Groove – Candid CJS9554 (1959)/Pure Pleasure Records (2013) – audiophile mono vinyl, 36:45 ****1/2:

(Tubby Hayes – tenor saxophone; Terry Shannon – piano; Jeff Clyne – double bass; Phil Seaman – drums)

Today jazz is distinctly international. In the mid-twentieth century there were very few European jazz players. But they listened to records and were treated to live performances by expatriated Americans.  The transcendent bop movement with pioneers like Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane and Charlie Parker inspired a generation of European jazzmen. In England a new breed of former big band musicians were matriculating into this trail-blazing jazz movement. Among them were saxophonist Ronnie Scott, trumpeter Jimmy Deuchar and a young tenor saxophonist, Tubby Hayes.

The son of a BBC violinist, Hayes studied violin and piano before taking up the tenor saxophone. Like many British jazz musicians, he got his start in big bands.  Eventually he formed a group with Scott called The Jazz Couriers. They would become the most celebrated of British Modern Jazz groups. He worked in the United States with the likes of Clark Terry, James Moody, Roland Kirk and many others. He returned to England, but struggled (as did most of the British jazz stars) to sustain commercial viability. But his prowess as a soloist was impossible to hide. Four decades after his death, Tubby Hayes recordings are being re-issued and in some case re-discovered.

Tubby’s New Groove was resurrected from the personal effects of industry veteran Alfred Lion. These tracks were recorded in 1959 as part of the debut album, Tubby’s Groove. Hidden in the relative obscurity of the U.K. in the late 1950s it is a rare look at the seminal performer of an under-appreciated British jazz scene. Playing in a quartet (Terry Shannon/piano; Jeff Clyne/double bass; Phil Seaman/drums), Hayes’ tenor saxophone is brilliant. The opening cut is a re-working of the Dizzy Gillespie/Charlie Parker romp, “Tin Tin Deo”. After a moody exotic intro, the quartet (The liner notes reference that Stan Getz called this type of instrument configuration equivalent to a classical string quartet.) morphs into fluid bop phrasing. Hayes’ bluesy swing notation is exemplary. He is capable of caressing a delicate melody or propelling the up tempo jam. Taking on another Parker composition (“Visa”), the tenor solos are exhilarating with syncopated time signatures (the rhythm section is cohesive and anchors the sax explorations). Shannon adds a radiant piano solo, showcasing his versatility. The band interacts with dexterity on the original number “Supper At Phil’s”. Clyne helps out with a bass groove, and drummer Seaman contributes some flashy drum breaks and a solo. The overall vibe feels like a live performance.

Side 2 begins with a straight ahead arrangement of a World War II opus, “Symphony”. Hayes’ playing is confident and colorful. But the highlight of this piece is the extended unaccompanied solo on tenor. It is difficult to keep up with the fast-paced improvisations. The transition to a soulful, bluesy piano solo is an attention-grabber. The second original composition (“Hook’s Way”) approximates a tougher blues vamp with modernistic time signatures. The quartet sounds edgy and tough as the Clyne/Seaman tandem counters the “big” sax tonality. Often talented jazz artists will take a renowned vocal-driven popular song and completely re-invent it. That is the case with “The Trolley Song”. Sparked by a furious drum intro, Hayes unleashes a relentless assault on the standard. His passionate, creative soloing and chorus extension is both challenging and inspired. It is essential jazz, pushing the constructs of a song to liberate melodic contexts. Despite the intensity of the instrumentation, the core of the song remains.

Pure Pleasure Records has re-mastered this mono recording with great detail and texture. Hayes’ saxophone is fluid and balances richness of sound with raw sensibility. The overall mix is very good, and the volume levels are steady. Simon Spillett’s 2010 liner notes on these sessions and the 1950s British jazz scene are entertaining and incisive.


Side 1: Tin Tin Doo; Visa; Supper At Phil’s

Side 2: Symphony; Hook’s Way; The Trolley Song

—Robbie Gerson