Tubby Hayes Quartet

Addictive Tendencies
Rare Music RM028

Nearly universally acknowledged in Europe as the United Kingdom’s most accomplished pre-Free Music saxophonist – if not improvising musician – the reputation of tenor saxophonist Tubby Hayes (1935-1973) never really made it across the Atlantic.

However, this never-before-released club date from 1966 with his working quartet makes it abundantly clear that the acclaim was well deserved. Yet listening to the four working variations on the combination of standards and originals here posits another question. Would or could Hayes – who was after all younger than John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Ornette Coleman – have made the transition to freer playing or would he have remained a superior Bopper like Johnny Griffin or Cannonball Adderley?

Evidence suggests the later route, especially when you consider that this working group here was still exploring the possibilities of “Walkin’”, “Alone Together” and “What is This Thing Called Love”. Furthermore Hayes, whose untimely death was exacerbated by his indulgence in many of the Bopper’s preferred substances, and whose habits are referred to both in the CD’s title and his original “Off The Wagon”, descriptively situates himself in those times in his improvising.

Someone whose first fame was with the Jazz Messengers-influenced Jazz Couriers, Hayes almost always refers to the melody when soloing. The few times he goes outside – as in a screeching altissimo duets with drummer Tony Levin’s press rolls and doubled rebounds on “What is This …” are bravura anomalies, probably related to Rollins’ outside tendencies that surfaced, then disappeared around the same time.

Although the quartet approximates the modal treatment of the classic Coltrane Quartet on “Alone Together”, taken as an andante ballad, truthfully the band is characteristically more in synch at the finale of “Walkin’” where the note-spewing saxophonist trades first eights, then fours with the drummer’s ruffs and rebounds before the tune concludes with percussion punctuation.

Levin, who since that time has gone on to pilot various aggregations led by pianist Keith Tippett, and saxophonists Paul Dunmall and the late Elton Dean – is the most noticeable soloist after Hayes. Combining technical expertise and raw power, his role is analogous to Art Blakey’s with his front line or Elvin Jones’s with Trane – pushing the soloist to the limits of his idea bank. At this juncture Levin too is firmly in the tradition, and someone whose full promise wouldn’t be revealed until a few years hence.

Pianist Mike Pyne and bassist Ron Mathewson are competent mainstreamers. A steady walker, the later only fleetingly reaches for anything discordant in his solos, and almost never for those notes just below the peg board. Unforced in a Bobby Timmons-Wynton Kelly sort of way, the pianist sticks to comping or standard licks, occasionally adding some gospelish runs to the tunes, probably related to Adderley’s stylistic popularity at the time.

Therefore the spotlight throughout is pretty much on Hayes – and he makes the most of it. Like a portly Griffin he speedily pushes phrase after phrase out of his horn, cranking up the intensity with finger vibratos, smears and flutter-tonguing. Never at a loss for ideas – as long as the variations follow the tune’s structure – he resembles an undersized Gordon as well, with peek-a-boo quotes interpolated from time-to-time. The famous head from “Night In Tunisia” makes an appearance as does a split-second of “Rule Britannia”. Taking a leaf from the Rollins book as well, Hayes ends at least two mammoth improvisations with a set of a capella variations that head into flutter-tonguing and altissimo territory before settling to earth with theme recapitulation.

In a macabre fashion, Hayes early death meant he was spared the full extent of the 1970s-1980s jazz drought and the pressure on mainstream players to record listless jazz-rock, pounding fusion or flighty world music. Like Stan Getz – who he sometimes resembles on ballads – Zoot Sims, or his old Jazz Courier partner Ronnie Scott, Hayes would probably have emerged in later life as a more balanced, and less flashy player with pre-Bop tendencies in his solos.

Unearthed impressive blasts from the past, the tunes on Addictive Tendencies should impress Hayes followers and anyone who wants to hear the real thing played in its time by advanced professionals suffused with youngsters’ audacity and insolence.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. CD 1: 1. Walkin’ 2. Tubby’s “A Little Work Out”announcement 3. Tubby’s “I Have A New Quartet” announcement 4 Alone Together 5. Tubby’s announcement CD 2: 1. Tubby’s announcement 2. Off The Wagon 3. Tubby’s announcement 4 When My Baby Gets Mad Watch Out 5 What Is This Thing Called Love?

Personnel: Tubby Hayes (tenor saxophone); Mike Pyne (piano); Ron Mathewson (bass) and Tony Levin (drums)