British Jazz Musician Tubby Hayes — Down in The Village, New York 1961
Jazz of the 20th century is as much about recordings as it is about musicians, and when a particular musician, or group of musicians, record something exceptional that recording instantly becomes a bench mark of excellence, and an inspiration for future musicians (think of Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue for instance) and something of a friend and companion for the jazz fan. I’ve had one such friend for over fifty years.
Back in the early 1960s there was an arts magazine called The Scene which, in their first issue, had a feature on the British saxophonist and vibes player Edward Brian ‘Tubby’ Hayes explaining that this 28 year old jazz musician was going to conquer the world, and that we should all buy his latest (his first I think) LP, called Down In The Village because those privileged few (Steve Race had been one of the few and couldn’t stop talking about the forthcoming LP on his BBC Light Programme show) who had been lucky enough to witness the recording session at the Ronnie Scott Club in London’s Soho said it was exceptional and a bench mark of excellence. They were right.
Well, I saved my paper-round money and bought the LP. I was knocked out. This was jazz I’d never heard before. It was a complete and utter revelation, as if, just for a moment, I’d been let into a secret world. Which I had of course — the secret world of modern jazz where every note, every beat, every nuance of phrasing is layered to create something the brain can hardly take in at first listening but, just before the end of a piece your heart gives you a good kick and you realise that something rather special has just happened. Better listen to that track again you think, and then again and again.
And the track I listened to again and again, is the title track ‘Down In The Village’ which is an original composition by Hayes to commemorate his visit to New York in 1961 where he played at the Village Vanguard ( the home turf of John Coltrane of course) and became something of a sensation, and rightly so because the professionalism and sheer brilliance of his playing states, from the outset of this wonderful recording, that this young Londoner was without a doubt one of the world’s finest jazz musicians. On tenor sax alone the likes of Sonny Rollins and the aforementioned Coltrane would have had a job just keeping up let alone competing in the creativity stakes. Tubby Hayes was a phenomenon, and not only on the tenor and soprano saxes, but also on the vibraphone, which is his chosen instrument for ‘Down In The Village’ and with which he creates a sumptuous mood and a gloriously deep propulsive swing that spurs the other musicians on to create something quite spectacular of their own, most notably Jimmy Deucher on trumpet who gets into a groove that at times almost breaks your heart with the delicacy of the phrasing and the sheer genius of his inventiveness, as does the piano playing of Gordon Beck whose improvisational skills and back-leaning swing is almost too much to bear. Add to this the rock solid support of Freddy Logan on bass, and the ‘wonderful’ Allan Ganley on drums, and you have a jazz record that changed British modern jazz forever, and not just here but around the world. It really is that good.