Another sold out session at Ronnies. A packed lunchtime audience awaits the arrival on stage of some of the monsters of British jazz and as they do, we are into the magic of Tubby Hayes’s music wonderland courtesy of Simon Spillett (tenor saxophone), John Critchinson (piano), Dave Green (bass) and Spike Wells (drums).
The last three, of course, are the cognoscenti of Tubby’s music - they have all played with him at some point in their life. Simon Spillett is also an expert on all things Tubby Hayes, having written the incredible The Long Shadow Of The Little Giant (Equinox Publishing) - the definitive book on Tubby. He is on top form, and starts playing swiftly, with verve, nodding his head to the rhythm.
This quartet is tight, equally playing up tempo pieces and ballads. Spike Wells, once a student of Tubby’s, excels at imprinting a style to the rhythm needed for this gig. From the Mexican Green album comes Dedication To Joy, a smooth ballad which, at the time, was dedicated to Tubby’s girlfriend. It reverberates throughout the room and the audience is completely taken. An amazing composition, performed stunningly by Spillett.
Grits, Beans & Greens from Tubby’s Live 1969 is a strong bebop work. Spike does it again - his solo performance is just perfection.
In 1961, Tubby was playing at the Half Note Club in New York. This would prove to be a crucial time in his career. One of the guests in the audience one night was Miles Davis. So the Ronnies crowd is treated with Opus Ocean, from the album Tubby The Tenor, album recorded in New York at the beginning of October in 1961. The Quartet covers this track smoothly under Spillett’s commanding sax playing.
A Billy Strayhorn composition shows off again the mighty Dave Green on bass. His subtle playing is pitch perfect. His concentration is impeccable.
Alone Together, a 1932 song which became soon after a jazz standard - Artie Shaw was the first jazz artist to record this - is raw and explosive.
Oleo by the great Sonny Rollins ends this very special gig performed by four incredibly talented and charismatic musicians. Tubby used to finish his gigs with this track sometimes so what better way to bid farewell to the crowd than play this milestone of a composition?
N. B. – Simon Spillett will be performing at Ray’s Jazz at Foyles in Charing Cross Road, London on Thursday 19th November for the launch of the long awaited A Man in a Hurry DVD on the life of Tubby Hayes (as narrated by Martin Freeman). This event is now sold out, but Kind Of Jazz will be present and will report back.
Words: Erminia Yardley
Photos: Carl Hyde