Tubby Hayes - The Little Giant

Proper Properbox-117    ****

Hayes (ts, vib, flt), with the orchestras of Vic Lewis, Jack Parnell and Vic Feldman plus his own quintet, big band and the Jimmy Deuchar Ensemble and Dizzy Reece Quintet. Rec. 1954-56
Tubby Hayes - The Little Giant
This four-CD Properbox is all the most obsessive Tubby Hayes anorak could ask. There are many rare photographs, some never published before, a complete discography and fact-packed commentary compiled by Simon Spillett, the brilliant young tenorist and Hayes scholar who must be the world’s leading Tubbiologist. Even his playing style is patterned incredibly faithfully on the original, and that’s certainly not easy. If Simon should ever appear on Mastermind, answering questions on The Life and Work of Tubby Hayes, I’d bet a goodly sum that he would score maximum points, with no passes.

It seems churlish to criticise any of his work here, but having known Tubby, who always had a lot of professional “front”, I’m not sure he would have been happy to find memories of his earliest musical steps (not to mention that bouffant hairstyle) repackaged in this way. According to legend, Tubby had it all together at 15 but these rare cuts suggest otherwise. Many show a cautious and reserved young teenager, still learning and gaining orchestral experience as a section-man. On Disc One the 1954 Vic Lewis band play Johnny Keating arrangements of then-hip Gerry Mulligan numbers, and if that’s 18-year-old Tubby soloing on ‘Walkin’ Shoes’ he sounds smoother, lighter and more Stan Getz-like than he would ever do later.

‘Too Marvellous for Words’, recorded in concert at Sheffield City Hall, is his only full-length feature and contains about one-tenth of the notes he would later use. The Jack Parnell sides likewise show only tenor glimpses, but there’s also a hip octet featuring trumpeters Jimmy Deuchar and Dickie Hawdon, a traddie who had heard Dizzy and made the awkward transition from Canal Street to 52nd Street without a scratch. Tubby’s solo on ‘Jordu’ reveals a broadening tone, but the sheets of sound are still far away.

Disc Two reveals Victor Feldman as a fine pianist even before he went to the States, and that drummer Phil Seamen could play quietly if he felt like it. Two rare quintet tracks with Caribbean trumpeter Dizzy Reece, who also emigrated to the US, are worth hearing, but an early quartet session, with pianist-composer Harry South, finds Tubby seemingly stretching out inside an echo-chamber. Drummer Bill Eyden, always a favourite with Hayes, drives ‘Opus de Funk’ along handsomely.

Tubby was always a big-band enthusiast and Disc Three is all orchestral fare except for three fine quintet tracks with South, Eyden, the under-rated Hawdon and bassist Pete Elderfield. Reece sparkles in his short band spots and Feldman plays the vibes that he obligingly sold to Tubby when he left town. Disc Four finds The Little Giant in something like the form I remember. ‘Hall Hears the Blues’, for instance, catches him displaying the rich tone and complete technical assurance that would distinguish the rest of his brilliant career.
Jack Massarik

This review is taken from Jazzwise Issue 107 - to read our complete review  section of jazz and beyond  subscribe here