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Here is part four of Simon Spillett’s sleeve notes for the now out-of-print 'Tubby Hayes: The Complete Fontana Albums 1961-69'
More about Simon can be found via his website including contact information and of course you're always welcome to leave your thoughts in the “comments” field of this blog.
© -Simon Spillett, copyright protected; all rights reserved; used with the author’s permission.
THE COMPLETE FONTANA RECORDINGS 1961-1969
'They say you can’t sell British jazz in Britain - not the modern stuff. That’s not quite true. With someone like Tubby, who now has an international reputation, sales are healthy enough. He is, in fact, the modern star name among European jazzmen.'
Jack Baverstock, Crescendo, June 1963
A particular effect: 100% Proof
The wobbly critical axis of the UK jazz press was something Hayes had long been used to but where things really mattered – units shifted, royalties, revenue earned – Tubbs' Tours was one of his most successful albums to date, a record in which he felt such pride that he took several copies to Los Angeles during his final playing visit to the USA in June 1965 with the specific aim of gaining airplay.
Superficially, this move looks like another example of Hayes the tenacious self-promoter. Below the veneer, however, lurked something altogether more telling. Fontana were no longer releasing his albums in the USA, the reasons for which reflected a recent, seismic tilt within the music world.
A US arm of the company had launched a couple of years earlier, itself a further subsidiary of the Philips-owned Mercury Records. Although it did release some UK-recorded jazz items from its English counterpart – a handful of John Dankworth LP's, most notably,, including his masterful What The Dickens – by the mid-1960s its main demand was for post-British Invasion pop, which, by this point, Philips' London studios were turning out virtually daily – the Merseybeats, The Pretty Things, The Spencer Davis Group. Besides this, sales of Hayes' US-released albums had hardly been an incentive to issue more.
1964, of course, had been the year of the 'great transatlantic breakthrough' - The Beatles' first US appearance, a coup that provided a grab-it-while-you can opportunity for all things British to prosper in the States – from film stars to fashion designers. British jazzmen, it seems, weren't included. One didn't have to look far for evidence confirming this omission. The man-for-man exchange deals that Pete King had laboured so patiently for – and which Hayes had, in effect, both inaugurated and embodied – were rendered largely academic; Britain was now able to offer four mop-tops rather than a single bop-head, and everyone knew what sort of business they were doing.
Even Ronnie Scott's club, Hayes' virtual home-from-home had, by late 1965, moved out from beyond its meagre 'let's-see-who-we-can-get' beginnings, and was now bringing in American singers and horn players with well-practised ease. 'Selling British jazz to the Yanks?', one can almost imagine one of those trendy, camp, stereotypical 1960s London ad-men saying, 'sweetie, that's so 1961.'
If Hayes looked to be losing something of his career impetus at this point – at least as far as the US went – he'd undoubtedly gained at least one new, valuable ally; Terry Brown, Fontana's number two, who begun supervising his recordings from Late Spot at Scott's/Down In The Village on. Or rather he'd regained him. Now producing everyone from Ronnie Ross to Julie Felix, Brown had once been a professional jazz trumpeter, running a sextet from which, in the very early 1950s, the teenaged Tubby Hayes had been sacked for demonstrating in public the kind of performance that he'd already gained something of a reputation for delivering in private. It wasn't that Jack Baverstock had abandoned Hayes, it was that he needed to keep an ever more watchful eye on the money-generators of the label – its pop signings, which by this point included quintessential Sixties hit-scorers Manfred Mann and Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders. In fact, so successful was Baverstock at spotting and marketing young talent (there were near-misses; The Who in its early guise of the High Numbers, Elton John) that by 1966 he revealed that he was producing and releasing three singles a week, Record Mirror dubbing Fontana 'The Label That Won't Stay Out Of The Top Ten.'
Brown and Hayes' working relationship was a noticeably happy one, rare between a producer and artist within British jazz circles, characterised by mutual respect. In this regard, it probably was a little like the partnership of John Coltrane and Impulse! boss Bob Thiele (journalist Brian Blain once praised Brown for being 'seemingly the only one in the great British record industry not preoccupied with looking for the new Beatles') but there were differences too, all of which confirmed the unfortunate fact that, as great a jazz artist as Hayes undoubtedly was, the production and release of UK-made jazz albums even by a performer so well-known internationally remained problematic.
Famously, Thiele was recording Coltrane at every opportunity, dealing with the corporate fall-out further down the line, as well as storing up treasure to be mined by later generations. Hayes and Brown might have wanted to do something similar (and the saxophonist was certainly full of ideas, as early as 1963 remarking how he wanted to record his un-rediscovered big band suite 'Impressions of New York' for the label, together with an album with a string orchestra) but, unlike Impulse!, where the hierarchy were remote business heads up at the parent company ABC-Paramount, Brown's boss was very often in the same building, if not the same studio.
Sessions couldn't just be shoe-horned in at the last minute, itself part of the reason why Hayes' discography of releases issued between 1962 and 1967 contains only five albums whereas Coltrane's has nearly a dozen. It's also the reason why there isn't a surfeit of unissued material by Hayes sitting in the archives of Fontana's current owner, Universal Music Group. What the label didn't use, it very often discarded, like all record companies, its eye firmly on the bottom line.
There were other reasons for the slow-down post-Tubbs' Tours too, not all of them directly connected to the changing face of the UK record business. In late 1964, Hayes had left his wife of four years – and their two young sons - in order to live with his lover, the black American vocalist Joy Marshall, then married to one of his big band sidemen, Peter King. If this seemed sordidly complex, it was nothing compared to the cocktail of vices the compulsive Hayes began to mix once free of family responsibilities. Having broken up his quintet with old confrère Jimmy Deuchar just before he did the same thing to his marriage – seeking, he later said, 'a freer approach to my music' – the following eighteen or so months were one of the most personally inconsistent yet musically accomplished times in his career. International travel (the US again, virtually every capital city in continental Europe), high-profile film soundtrack work (with the likes of Lalo Schifrin and Quincy Jones) and still more poll-wins were off-set by suicide attempts, fist-fights with, among others, Ronnie Scott, and even a flight abroad to escape the intrusions of a leading Sunday newspaper. Maintaining his sanity must have taxed his every fibre during this time so it was no wonder that maintaining a regular working group now became impossible. Harnessing the trio of his former quintet pianist Gordon Beck was one expedient option when the opportunity arose, but three years on from their initial encounter Beck found his old boss close to falling apart, 'going from bad to worse, drinking more and more and becoming increasingly angry.'
'Tubby was starting to come down off the number one spot,' remembered Beck years later. 'The clubs were not so packed.'
Those clubs that still booked him, that was. Hayes' old stamping ground, the West End tripartite comprising the Flamingo, the Marquee and Ronnie Scott's – a jazz scene that you could literally map out in footsteps rather than miles – had less and less space for him. Rhythm and Blues had overtaken the former two, while Ronnie's import-centric policy now had little in the way of a windfall for local hornmen, however good ('my heart went out to the London jazz fan,' Terry Brown wrote of this time in the sleeve notes to Tubbs' Tours in 1964, 'forced to wander around surrounded by R&B clubs!')
At first, Hayes and his ilk could laugh off the likes of The Beatles. He'd called beat music in general 'a row' around the time of the release of the Fab Four's first album, but when pop culture, it seemed quite unexpectedly, robbed the jazz establishment of a new wave of audience members, it ceased to be funny. Looking at it now, it's easy to understand why this happened – newly confident, post-pill Britain, was no longer a land where an adopted music would suffice; it was time to jump into bed with our own, home-spun ideas and see where procreation might lead. At the time though, it all came as an almighty shock to the jazz community. The kids had a point though; to anyone under twenty, if set besides a Rolling Stone or a Kink, a musician like Hayes – barely a year older than the Stones' Bill Wyman – could suddenly seem very square indeed. Those neat suits and even neater haircuts, once the height of hip, now began to look like yesterdays news.
And it wasn't just in pop. Jazz music had been undergoing its own snakeskin-shedding revamp since the late 1950s, modal jazz and free-improvisation superseding Hard Bop at the leading edge. Hayes still admired Coltrane as he thrust ever closer to the outer limits simply because the American had more than proved his worth in the three things once seen as a litmus test for modern jazzmen – playing tunes, time and changes – but he was less enamoured with Ornette Coleman, the doyen of the avant-garde, whose music he publicly derided as 'boring'.
When a new underground of British musicians with similar ambitions began to break through around 1965 – news of its presence passed more by word-of-mouth than in-print – he kept a weather eye on its progress, paying a playing visit to the Little Theatre Club, off Trafalgar Square, the workshop of a whole cadre of adventurous young players who took the word of Ornette Coleman and co. as gospel. Pretty soon, these young adventurers were speaking their own variant of free-form, having realised that if you were really improvising you weren't playing by rules set down in any one country. For them America was just a place and not an ideal (there exists a telling US interview in which Hayes is asked if he is incorporating any of his country's 'native music' in his own approach. Normally a well-practised and fluent interviewee, he stumbles in his reply; this was the one question nobody had ever thought to ask him back home).
Some of these neophytes Hayes liked a lot – some of them he hired too, both for his big band and the quartet he was frustratedly trying to reboot – Mick Pyne, John Stevens, Danny Thompson, Ray Warleigh, Kenny Wheeler, Ron Mathewson, among them. Employing them was one thing; playing in their bag was another. Fellow saxophonist Peter King remembers Hayes' endorsement of the avant-garde as somewhat qualified, the tenorist adding free-improvisation 'always for a particular effect', almost as if it were some kind of musical garnish. The fact that he even entertained the idea of change said a lot and, to his credit, he made no secret of his desire to keep on trend, revealing in one 1966 interview that 'the way it's going towards playing 'free' these days – I find that everything I've been practising over the years is of no help to me. In fact, it's a restriction.'
Hearing Hayes trying to fight his way clear of this tether, critics who had already taken strongly against his lengthy solos and pristine technical skill became ever more hostile. As early as 1962, writer John Howes had noted that 'in trying to investigate the rhythmic and harmonic advances Coltrane has made [Hayes has] perhaps unwittingly undermined his own purpose', while the general public seemed equally unimpressed. 'There are at least fifty tenor players in America better than Tubby Hayes', one Melody Maker wrote in 1965, accusing the Englishman of 'playing like a middle-age man.'
Some even thought Hayes should think about an early bath. Reviewing a concert at London's Royal Festival Hall in summer 1965, Jazz Journal staffer Michael Shera wrote boldly that 'Hayes's tenor playing reached a peak several years ago', inferring that he was now on the downward slide.
By the end of 1966, he thought he'd at last cracked it, forming a new quartet full of young, keen and largely untried talent, all eager to try and broker a new ground between tradition and innovation; pianist Mike Pyne, who'd come in through a side-door apprenticeship with bluesmeister Alexis Korner, bassist Ron Mathewson, a refugee from the mainstream band of cornettist Alex Welsh and drummer Tony Levin, a Midlands-based musician who Hayes had plucked from obscurity after the two men jammed together one night in Birmingham. 'Gutsy, furious, irresistible and sometimes too loud,' was how The Sunday Times described the band that winter. 'I want to play jazz more than ever now,' Hayes remarked in the same piece, as if this new unit had relit the fire within him.
There was also a new Fontana big band album awaiting issue too, assembled over a single week in the spring of 1966 and featuring a line-up that sprinkled a few new faces (Ray Warleigh, Johnny Butts) in among the studio-proofed professionals Hayes had otherwise chosen (Kenny Baker, Bob Efford, Roy Willox et al.) The music likewise mixed old and new, although this hadn't been the plan in the beginning.
Originally Terry Brown and Hayes had contrived to record an album of music associated with some of the saxophonist's heroes – Milt Jackson, Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Jimmy Deuchar, Victor Feldman – arranged not just by the leader but by sideman/trumpeter Ian Hamer and ringer Stan Tracey. The material had almost chosen itself – Jackson's Bluesology (featuring Hayes final recorded solo on the vibraphone); Gillespie's A Night In Tunisia; Rollins' Sonnymoon For Two, Davis' Milestones and so on.
Three days' worth of material had gone down on tape when on the final afternoon of recording Hayes found he had half-an-hour of studio time left to run. In order to fill it, he broke out the informal saxophone concerto he'd written for a German radio appearance the previous summer, titled with a heavy nod to the potency of both his playing and his choice of alcoholic beverages, 100% Proof.
According to Terry Brown, there was a quick unrecorded rehearsal before 'a new tape was loaded and off we went.'
'He wanted to do this [piece] with the clock ticking round,' remembered the bassist on the session, Jeff Clyne. 'It was either we do it or not as it was one take. And it happened to be a historic thing because it worked straight out.'
Done and dusted in a single, fourteen-minute take, this impromptu classic simply had to be the album's title cut. Indeed, the very words 100% Proof encapsulated just how potent a musician Hayes remained. To this end, when Fontana issued the album, the record’s cover even played up connection, a colour photograph of a laughing leader seated in the Philips' Studios control room squeezed into a cartoon of a corked bottle. The symbolism was spot-on; this was a heavy vintage – decant it at your peril!
Released in May 1967 – to a fanfare laughably modest when compared to that afforded Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, issued the same month – 100% Proof instantly created waves, both welcome and ominous. Hayes' own lead-off track was the talking point, almost to the extent of overshadowing what were otherwise hugely energised slabs of big band jazz.
In what amounted to a tenor-led dance of the seven veils, he had rammed home his gift for maintaining his own identity amid all manner of moods.
Through passages of buttoned-down changes-playing, a touch of the fashionable jazz waltz and his first recorded forays into far-ranging, chordless improvisation, this was a performance proving wrong those nay-sayers who had begun to doubt if Hayes could any longer cut it; a solo as powerful – and much more varied, critics please note! – than anything he'd ever put out on record before, one that, finally, seemed to be breaking new ground. No longer was Hayes the static, on-the-spot jogger Jack Cooke had disparaged three years before. He was sprinting ahead once more. Accordingly, jazz writers began garlanding him in a manner not really seen since the release of Tubbs, way back in 1961. Inebriated by this heady new brew, Crescendo, Gramophone and Melody Maker couldn't say enough in praise of an album that was, as Steve Voce had it in Jazz Journal, better than any recently issued by Stan Getz or Sonny Rollins.
In early 1968, Melody Maker named 100% Proof its 'Jazz LP of The Year', a victory Hayes sorely needed at the beginning of what was to be his true annus horribilis, and one which had been won by beating off some wholly intimidating opposition. Hadn't this proved hands down that he was once more on top of the pile? Many thought so, but, as ever where Hayes' example was concerned, there were those who remained unconvinced. Jazz Monthly's Brian Priestley was among the few brave enough to suggest that this latest album – a big band LP patterned largely along traditional lines of performance that had been set in stone long ago – was, to some ears, 'incredibly square'.
Priestley had never really gone overboard on Hayes ('I seem to have acquired an in-built resistance to the Instant Boredom he usually offers'), however, that was a matter of personal taste. But did his wider argument, that was this really the best that British jazz could then throw up? – what amounted to a covers project of American jazz classics issued at the height of the much-touted 'summer of love' – hold any water?
In some ways, yes, but then it depended solely on whether you believed that jazz had to annex new ground to be worthy of any respect or whether you valued style over content, a quandary with which many of Hayes' fiercest critics continue to wrestle.
Looked at simply as a product of its time 100% Proof might on the surface seem a tad anachronistic, an accusation that can be leveled at three other British big band LP's taped that same year – Stan Tracey's Alice In Jazzland, Introducing the Harry South Big Band and Kenny Clare and Ronnie Stephenson's Drum Spectacular, all of which have a high cross-over of personnel. After all, wasn't this 1966, the year London's counter-culture began to infiltrate everyday society, The Beatles upped the ante on Revolver and Blow-Up rewrote the rules on what you could get away with on film? Wasn't jazz an art form supposed to draw upon the times through which it was passing?
Yes it was, but then 1966 is also the year in which the event that is now all too conveniently regarded as pivotal to a nation's identity – the football World Cup win by England against Germany – was dominated by men who didn't all look like they'd fit in down the King's Road. Hayes had fielded a similar-looking squad, hair neatly parted, maybe even a little thin on top, more professional than populist, a genuine team rather than a collection of wayward shooting stars. Both had pulled off stunning accomplishments, 100% Proof as thrilling to the senses as that final, dramatic, 'they think it's all over' moment out on the turf at Wembley.
Priestley's might have seemed a lone voice but, for those paying closer attention, there were hints elsewhere that he might have a point. There was even evidence to suggest that Tubby Hayes himself was beginning to feel that his career – on-record at least – was beginning to slip backwards.
In his Jazz Journal review of 100% Proof, Steve Voce recounted how the saxophonist had been unhappy with the programming of the LP, the balance of which necessitated leaving such masterpieces such as his gorgeous account of the ballad Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most and the supercharged What's Blue? in the can. Then there were the sales figures. When interviewed in Melody Maker in early 1968, Hayes had noted dryly that the paper's readers, having voted the LP their choice for the year, appeared to be 'more discerning than the public at large. I've just had my royalty statement in – and it shows the album has sold about 142 copies!'
Away from the press, he appeared even more disillusioned. Bumping into Hayes on a gig one night in late 1967, the writer Mark Gardner found the saxophonist reeling from the recently announced deletion of virtually his entire Fontana back catalogue, leaving just 100% Proof and two budget-label Wing reissues of Tubbs in N.Y. and Palladium Jazz Date as his 'latest' on-record representation. '[He] withdrew a Fontana statement of royalties from his pocket ', Gardner remembered, 'showing his current earnings from [one album] for the year amounted to £12.8s.6d!' On another gig, the saxophonist told the audience sarcastically that his forthcoming Fontana album, taped in early 1967, would 'be out around 1970, I guess.'
It's worth getting some facts straight here: first, that a year-plus gap between the recording and the issue of a completed LP is by no means unusual in the jazz business (look at John Coltrane's Prestige and Atlantic output, some of which was released upwards of five years after it was taped); secondly that Gardner's memory may have tricked him into a far more optimistic figure than was actually the case.
Indeed, quarterly royalty statements sent to Hayes around this time, despite showing steady if largely unexceptional sales for his latest album - 100% Proof shifting 121 copies between July 1st and September 30th 1967, for instance - reveal a back catalogue very nearly dead in the water, Tubbs' Tours selling just three copies in the same period. It had been a remarkably sudden downturn too, as Hayes' own surviving royalty statements again make clear. In just four months from June to October 1966 the company had sold close to 2,000 copies of the Wing pressing of Tubbs in N.Y. The following year, over an identical time-frame it had shifted only 223.
Little wonder that the number crunchers at Philips had decided to sharpen their ax.
There were other factors at play too. Hayes' cynical encounter with Gardner may have reflected the reality that the album he'd taped some time before, an LP that remains arguably his greatest on-record documentation, recorded with the dynamic Pyne-Mathewson-Levin quartet, and which showed just how far he''d advanced since 100% Proof, still hadn't yet reached the pre-production phase.
This ridiculous thing: Mexican Green
As ever, Hayes had given plenty of clues to the public as to its contents, playing the forthcoming record's title track Mexican Green (his in-the-know tribute to an especially potent blend of cannabis then doing the rounds in London) regularly on the band's live gigs and radio appearances throughout 1967.
With its blistering mix of tight, hard-bop discipline and free-ranging interactive group improvisation, this was Hayes tackling the music of the day head-on, creating in the process his own brand of co-operative free-bop, itself more akin to Miles Davis' patented 'time-no-changes' approach than the go-for-broke caprices of Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders and co. It was almost as if he'd trimmed back his music to its core – itself a highly fitting image for a man who'd recently shed the pounds that had once given him his cheery nickname.
Taping the album had its own issues, not least of all for the young men Hayes had recruited as sidemen, two of whom – pianist Mick Pyne and drummer Tony Levin – were making their studio début. For Levin, the first hurdle had been finding the place, a series of instructions made all the more confusing by his boss's London brogue.
'I remember looking for Stanup Place,' the drummer recalled in 2007. 'I had Tubby on the phone. “Yeah, it's Stanup, that's it”, you know, with his London accent. In the end he spelt it out for me; S-T-A-N-H-O-P-E. It was so funny.'
The studio itself also presented some problems. Previous Hayes' dates hadn't been at all disrupted by the practice of baffling off the individual musicians, yet now, playing music far more interactive and which required much more in the way of impromptu cues it created something more than a physical barrier.
'Tubby was in a box [recording booth],' remembers bassist Ron Mathewson, the only one of Hayes' sidemen to have previously made a commercially issued recording. 'I was in a box. Levin was out in the studio, I think. That [set-up] can make it really hard to play together.'
Whatever inhibitions this situation may have given the musicians at the time, it doesn't show in the resulting album.
Recorded over a series of sessions in February and March 1967 (one of which added bassist Jeff Clyne to the regular quartet line-up, sadly nothing from which survives), Mexican Green is Tubby Hayes' pinnacle moment on Fontana, a seven-track statement of intent which captures all his musical concerns of the time.
The title track was a revelation at the time. A theme inspired by any number of sources – Hayes cited the one-chord vamps of Latin heroes like Machito, while to others ears there appears more than a trace of arch-avantist Albert Ayler's Ghosts in its the short, fanfare-like opening – the real meat of the performance was an intense, spontaneously developing group improvisation that grew organically from within. Ron Mathewson remembers Hayes' directions as being minimal and to the point. '[He] would say, “right, we'll start it off, everyone playing free and then watch me. I'll tap it off.” And he'd tap his foot on the floor and we'd all go into this ridiculous thing like a mad Scottish reel or something. He would begin his solo and it would gradually get free, completely free.'
As reviewers at the time noted, even when at its most abandoned, Hayes and his band still retained a sense of discipline, a quality so often lacking in other avant-garde attempts. Even today, musicians hearing Mexican Green continue to marvel at how cohesive the performance is, and at how different was Hayes vision of British free-form to that of his contemporaries.
''[It's] not like Evan Parker or Derek Bailey,' says one such player, saxophonist/flutist Theo Travis. 'It's got changes and it swings – they manage to do that, even though there are whole sections where they are [just] improvising – playing chords and changes, but unscripted. In fact, you might not know except it says on the record sleeve!'
Yet, for all the talk of the title track, and its annexing of new improvisational terrain it is Hayes' compositions that are the key to the albums success, each outlining a particular space within his music. One, the naggingly catchy Off The Wagon, which quickly became the albums most covered track, even attempted to cram in several styles into a single arrangement, as Hayes pointed out in his sleeve notes. 'I usually introduce this number as “Our Country and Western, Rock and Roll, Avant Garde, Rhythm and Blues, Be Bop Tune.”'
On paper it sounded utterly abhorrent – Hayes raiding everything from the kitchen cupboard in order to come up with a shocking new recipe, as it were – but in performance it was another matter altogether, as indeed was the whole album. Tubby Hayes had made many outstanding LP's already but this one – this was something extra special; the final, definitive answer to all those who doubted his ability to find his way successfully out of the old rules of chord-changes, fast swing and bebop. And his young sidemen had, perhaps for the very first time on a Hayes small-band album, matched the leader's musical muscle blow-for-blow. It all made for a truly sensational record.
There are cleverly constructed original compositions such as Dear Johnny B. and Blues In Orbit, revealing ears open to contemporary trends in American jazz, and which strike a half-way point between Hard Bop and Free Jazz at times reminiscent of a new-found Hayes favourite, tenorist Joe Henderson.
Then there is a gentle, pastoral-sounding jazz waltz – Trenton Place - which finds the leader's echo-drenched flute outlining a theme shot through with a melancholy that sits rather at odds with critical dismissals of his apparent lack of musical emotion. True, while there are moments when the old, chord-gobbling Hayes comes to the fore – most notably on the almost comically ramped-up speed test The Second City Steamer – on the whole the album comes across as his most well-balanced work to date.
Ever since the album's release in the late summer of 1968, Hayes' fans have sung Mexican Green's praises, and, as is so often the way with British jazz of the era, part of that obeisance has been to try and align the album with a suitable US-recorded counterpart. Some have suggested contemporary records by Sonny Rollins – East Broadway Rundown, for instance, which also plays around with a lengthy, interactive title track. Others think it closer to Joe Henderson's mid-Sixties work (Tetragon, Inner Urge). However, Mexican Green's brokering of tight written structure and improvisational freewheeling probably finds its true opposite number in Stan Getz' Sweet Rain (Verve), taped by the American saxophonist's quartet around the same time and a record in which the headliner's iron-clad sense of musical architecture combines hand-in-glove with an intense rhythm section headed by the young Chick Corea, in much the same manner as Hayes had done with Pyne, Mathewson and Levin.
It's also tempting to bracket Hayes' album with John Coltrane's masterpiece, A Love Supreme.
On the surface the comparisons work fine; as A Love Supreme had been for Coltrane, this was the definitive statement of the Hayes' quartet's music, reached after a period spent polishing both personal and group performance-intensity on grueling one-nighters; it's also an album primarily credited, unlike any of his existing Fontana catalogue, to Hayes alone, just as A Love Supreme had been to Coltrane.
Both albums had liner notes penned by the artist, Hayes' (the original handwritten drafts of which survive) not as spiritually driven as Coltrane's but confessional enough; the album, he wrote, 'represents an approach to music that I haven't used before'. And, again like Coltrane, he was explicit in giving thanks to those who'd helped the album come into being; 'I would like to thank Jack Baverstock and Terry Brown for allowing me the freedom of the Fontana Studios to record fifty-one minutes and twenty-one seconds of music I feel represents a pretty accurate coverage of my composing and playing within a small group context as it is today.'
Both albums also have a signature sound – Coltrane's that of the cavernous yet-focused space of the famed Van Gelder Studios in New Jersey; Hayes' an echo-encased period mix that can't fail to shout London in the 1960s.
And both records have cover images at once bold and enigmatic. What was Coltrane thinking in that earnest shot that adorned A Love Supreme? What was that painting on Hayes' cover? Who'd painted it? What might it infer? Was the music within the album's sleeve as multi-coloured and as full of needlepoint detail?
The answers to these last questions are rarely given in the published histories of Hayes, and certainly weren't acknowledged at the time of the album's release. Appropriately enough, the cover painting on the album is by Mexican artist Diego Rivera, and it an excerpt from 1945's El Mercado de Tlatelolco, part of his cycle of Pre-Hispanic and Colonial Mexico frescos, which be found within the Palacio Nacional in Zocalo, Mexico. It is not known who chose this image for the cover, or indeed If Hayes even knew where it had been sourced. Similarly, Rivera received no credit on the Mexican Green album jacket and it is unclear whether his estate was ever notified that his work was used.
There is also another mystery behind the album. Having been released to virtually unanimous critical acclaim (Melody Maker: 'one of Tubby's best albums yet...a really excellent LP, by anybody's standards; Gramophone: 'Tubby's best small group LP'; Crescendo; 'full marks') its creator appears never to have mentioned the record in any of his magazine or radio interviews, making it more like Coltrane's Crescent (an album the back story of which is still untold) than A Love Supreme.
It's impossible to know why for sure, but when one considers his other concerns at the time of its release it may be that this – promotion of a record that was now over a year old – was of less pressing importance than matters within his private life.
Fontana had certainly pushed it though – in box ads in Jazz Journal, and Philips' regular Fifth Column slot in Melody Maker – each, ironically, placed at the very moment when Hayes' life was about to go haywire.
In late summer 1968, just as Mexican Green began to hit the record racks, the saxophonist was arrested for possession of heroin. His off-stage vices – for so long hidden to all but those close to him – were about to go embarrassingly public.
It had been a hellish year; locked into serious addiction, Hayes' life had begun to fall apart early in 1968. His quartet drifted away and his jazz-gig diary – usually full to bursting and long the envy of the profession – now began to resemble Swiss cheese. Addiction had been an escape. Ultimately, it very nearly took him down.
A very public arrest (which found its way onto both the BBC TV news and the front pages of the national press) was followed by an equally visible trial, the net result being both registration to a Health Service-funded rehabilitation programme and a suspended prison sentence.
As always, Hayes acted like a cat with nine lives, and soon rallied himself by forming a new quartet, featuring the latest in a line of young discoveries, twenty-four year old Irish guitarist Louis Stewart. To some, the choice of guitar alone showed where he saw things heading. Initially dismissive of rock, by the late 1960s, he'd begun to thaw a little, even admitting to appreciating recent breakthroughs made by the Four Scousemen of The Apocalypse.
'The Beatles?,' he told one newspaper, 'They'll never really make the grade as jazz musicians, but some of their experimental ideas in their latest records when developed could produce some interesting new ideas.'
To be continued and concluded in Part 5.