This weekend would have seen the 81st birthday of Edward Brian “Tubby” Hayes, had he still been with us. Words like “under-appreciated”, neglected” or “overlooked” are perhaps applied to jazz musicians more than any other category of artist but in Hayes’ case they aren’t cliches. Such adjectives are perhaps more keenly felt by Hayes’ supporters than they are for others for a couple of reasons. Firstly, he was a British jazz musician in a world, let’s be frank, dominated by our cousins across the Atlantic. And secondly, Hayes was genuinely world-class, capable of holding his own with the very best, from where ever they hailed. Yet outside a relatively small coterie of fans of British jazz of a certain vintage, Hayes isn’t just under-appreciated – he isn’t even known at all!
My reason for mentioning this topic isn’t just the anniversary of Hayes’ birth, otherwise I’d have the opportunity every year to do this. No, something else has been in the ether lately. I’m not one for superstition but there seems to have been a serendipitous amount of Hayes in the air around me over the last few weeks. It all started when I gave my father (a long-standing Hayes fan) a copy of Simon Spillett’s excellent new Hayes biography The Long Shadow of the Little Giant as a birthday gift at the start of January. Perhaps because of that, I’ve since become more conscious of opportunities to add some Hayes records to my collection. I suppose it’s a bit like when you’re thinking of buying a new car: until you make your choice you don’t notice that model on the roads but as soon as you’re interested in one, they seem to be everywhere. OK, original Hayes records are pretty rare, so the chances of seeing them everywhere are slim but you get the sentiment.
I’d already been on the look-out for a nice copy of a Fontana first pressing of Mexican Green for quite a while and I actually knew where I could get one but at a three-figure asking price. I was hoping to do better and, as it happens, I had missed out on one such eBay opportunity right at the start of the year. But patience and perseverance are qualities every collector needs to nurture and I latched on to another copy on eBay from a UK seller with little or no history of being a specialist in jazz records. Such sellers can be double-edged swords. On the plus side, they sometimes don’t know the true value of what they’re selling and so don’t highlight their listings in a way that would attract a lot of competitive bidding. On the down side, not knowing what they’ve got can lead to unintentionally misleading or over-egged descriptions. In this case, the seller knew just enough to pique a little interest but left sufficient doubts to have probably put off some potential bidders. I opted to set a low snipe and accept what ever outcome the fates would bring. After all, there would be other opportunities if this one didn’t work out and if the quality wasn’t sufficiently good, I wouldn’t have paid over the odds.
As you might guess, I wouldn’t be writing this if that snipe hadn’t proved successful. Not only did I win the auction at a frankly bargain price but, when the record arrived on Monday, it proved to be in at least VG+ condition with only a couple of audible imperfections. Plus the cover was very nice too.
But that’s not the end of this story. On the day that the record arrived, I also used my lunch break to take a browse in a couple of the second-hand record shops near my office. In an amazing twist of fate, both shops had copies of first pressings of the same pair of Hayes’ Fontana LPs: Tubbs in N.Y.! and Return Visit. The pair in one shop had the nicer condition covers but the vinyl had some scuffs and, in one case, a couple of potentially alarming scratches. The pair of records in the other shop had slightly more worn covers but the vinyl in both cases was in superb condition. A short negotiation ensued in the second shop about a combined cash price for both records and a satisfactory deal was stuck along with an enjoyable conversation about rare British jazz LPs. The owner of this shop clearly knows his stuff, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given that this is the same location that yielded up a copy of the Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet’s Live for my collection last year.
Now every evening this week has turned into Tubby on the turntable night as I try to assimilate my new acquisitions. I’m going to need to listen several times over to take in all the music but my aim is to reach a position where I can write individual postings about each of the three records. In the meantime, I’ve got my fingers crossed that certain UK radio stations haven’t forgotten the significance of this weekend’s anniversary and will commemorate this nation’s greatest jazz musician appropriately.