Tubby Hayes Quartet: The Complete Hopbine ’69

Live session from the saxophonist considered by some to be verbose and soulless and by others the untouchable greatest

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On Tuesday 23 December 1969, Tubby Hayes played what was for him, a typical one nighter at the Hopbine pub in Wembley, London. It was one gig where he was playing mostly at his very best and obviously enjoying himself immensely. In three and a half years from this gig he would be dead after suffering many heart-failure problems, agitated by his heroin addiction.

This release presents the good, the bad and the ugly in Tubby’s work although it may well have been a fairly typical set at the time. The good is represented by his big tone and inventive solos on For Members Only and Where Am I Going where he slows down the line a little to play some striking solo work. His soft, bronzy, rounded sound on For Heaven’s Sake shows just how good he was on ballads and this one benefits from soulful, lyrical Hayes, a nicely paced solo from Pyne on piano and one of Ron Mathewson’s plunging, up and down and everywhere-in-between bass solos. His admiration for Scott LaFaro is evident here.

Vierd Blues is based on John Coltrane’s John Paul Jones and here Tubby plays some strong blues lines. He does the same thing again on the closing selection, Walkin’.

The bad here is represented by the overlong solos, some tracks running to 18 or 19 minutes after inspired blowing had departed. The ugly is the ridiculously fast tempo used on What Is This Thing Called Love. On a previous Acrobat vinyl release the mastering was so bad that I questioned the record company as to whether the disc had been released at the right speed. They put it out at 45rpm. Fortunately, this release has excellent audio quality, and the piece makes sense at last. I suggest it is too fast to enjoy though, either playing or listening to it.

Musicians and enthusiasts over the years either think Hayes was too technical and played too many notes for comfort at the expense of soulfulness or they think he was the untouchable greatest. The truth, I think, lies somewhere in the middle ground. At any rate this two-CD, very well recorded set gives us a good view of Tubby Hayes, on a good night, backed by his well-integrated rhythm section, playing to his strengths. And a few of his weaknesses.

Discography
CD1: For Members Only; Off The Wagon; Where Am I Going; What Is This Thing Called Love (59.03)
CD2: Mainly For The Don; For Heaven’s Sake; Vierd Blues; Walkin’ (47.55)
Hayes (ts); Mick Pyne (p); Ron Mathewson (b); Spike Wells (d). The Hopbine, North Wembley, 23 December 1969.
Jazz In Britain JIB-30-M-CD