Artist: Tubby Hayes.
Title: Tubbs in N.Y.
Label and Catalogue Number: Fontana STFL 595.
Personnel: Tubby Hayes (tenor sax); Clark Terry (trumpet); Eddie Costa (vibes); Horace Parlan (piano); George Duvivier (bass); Dave Bailey (drums).
Side 1: You for Me; A Pint of Bitter; Airegin.
Side 2: Opus Ocean; Soon; Doxy.
Recording Date: 3-4 October 1961 in New York, USA.
On The Record
Selection: You for Me.
On a few rare occasions, record collecting is like waiting for a London bus: you loiter for ages without the one you want turning up and, when it finally does, two arrive at once! As I’ve mentioned previously, that was the case recently with not one but two Tubby Hayes records. And I don’t mean in the virtual netherworld of eBay but in actual record shop real life. Even more astounding is that the two records in question form a natural pairing by being the two that Hayes recorded in New York. Of course, dear reader, I snapped up the pair in overall best condition but favouring those with the better vinyl condition over those with the better cover condition.
The story of this, the first session, takes us back to a time when the Musicians Union had a ban in force that prevented, or at the very least, imposed prohibitive restrictions on American musicians performing in the United Kingdom. So when Ronnie Scott, owner of London’s most famous jazz club, booked Zoot Sims for a four week residency in 1961, there was a problem to be solved. The solution came in the form of a reciprocal arrangement that would see a British musician travel in the opposite direction to perform in the USA. Previous such deals had seen, shall we say, less prominent performers make the trip. This time was to prove different because Britain’s brightest jazz star was heading stateside and, what’s more, Hayes’ reputation preceded him which opened the door to a recording session with well established members of the New York scene.
I don’t know if You for Me was the first tune recorded but whoever chose it as the record’s opening number knew what they were doing. Hayes’ opening salvo before the rest of the band swings in serves clear notice of what’s ahead. It’s a typically ebulliant passage that sums up both the saxophonist’s talent and his un-British preparedness to show off that talent. This number and Soon from Side Two are the only quartet performances on the record and, for me, the setting as lone horn is the one in which Hayes thrives best. It’s no surpise to me that towards the end of his all too brief and tragic career, this became Hayes’ preferred modus operandi. If you need evidence to support that claim, then look no further than the masterpiece LP Mexican Green (Fontana SFJL 911).
That’s not to say that Hayes couldn’t hold his own when sharing the front line with others. He lays down the challenge with not one but two Rollins’ numbers. The first is Airegin with its notoriously challenging head that Hayes blasts clean through and out the other side into trademark high velocity soloing. The second is the record’s closer Doxy that gets a properly bluesy treatment commensurate with its title courtesy of Brother Parlan and Brother Duvivier.
Posterity hasn’t left me any clues about which specific New York studio hosted this recording or who was in the engineer’s chair but, on both counts, Hayes was well served. A nice, clean spacious sound comes through on this Fontana stereo first pressing with Hayes placed front and centre with bass and piano left and drums right. All of which leaves me feeling smug to have snagged this one in such fine condition.
Between The Lines
British liner notes of the 1950s and early 1960s tended to be more restrained than those penned in the US. For this record, our own Benny Green – biographer, critic, BBC radio presenter and jazz musician in his own right – was charged with the task of combining our nation’s prediliction for modesty with the bursting pride the UK jazz scene clearly felt for Hayes’ immense talent. This LP, more than any previous Hayes record, must have heightened this challenge since the cirumstances put Hayes in front of the microphones alongside genuine US talents.
Green develops his theme chronlogically, starting by establishing his own credentials through his first contact with the teenage Hayes and stepping rapidly through the saxophonist’s development and association with Ronnie Scott. The second portion of the notes deviates from the conventional by detailing the circumstances which led to Hayes’ visit to New York. From our perspective, the union restrictions of the day may seem peculiar but they were very real back then so this is an informative historical passage that provides a highly relvant context for this session and, indeed, the reciprocal Zoot Simms dates.
The payback is that space constraints limit commentary about the music and performances to little more than two paragraphs. It’s a pity because apart from that, there’s a fascinating set of back stories from Hayes’ visit to New York about the live gigs he performed, the illustrious audiences who checked him out and his extensive preparaton for the recording session itself. I’m left with the lingering regret that, in contrast to the music itself, the liner notes were a missed opportunity to tell an extraordinary tale.
For Collectors Only
Side 1 has the rough textured black and silver Fontana label and the deadwax is machine stamped with the substantial matrix number “AA885240 1Y 3 // 420 VTV”. Side 2 has the same style of label with an equally long machine stamped matrix number that reads “AA885240 2Y 3 // 420 TU”. Both labels bear some moderate spindle marks that probably show up more on the matt black of the rough texturing than they might on other label designs. The near mint vinyl itself is flat edged and registers at an understated British 145g. The cover is the standard British foldback style with a laminated front and unlaminated rear typical of the period. It’s in pretty good shape but a couple of the corners are a little dog-eared so I can’t describe it as being in near mint condition.
So, as all Tubby collectors will know, this bears all the hallmarks of a stereo first pressing.