Simon Spillett was a man in a hurry, giving a whirlwind performance as the first part of a double-header dedicated to the legendary tenor sax player Tubby Hayes.
Hayes, perhaps Britain’s most talented jazz multi-instrumentalist, played vibes, flute, soprano, alto and baritone sax, piano, clarinet, bass clarinet and tympani, but was best known for his hard bebop tenor playing.
A talented composer and arranger, he began playing professionally at the age of fifteen, playing with Ronnie Scott and many other jazz legends including Roland Kirk, Clark Terry, James Moody and Charlie Mingus.
Spillett was backed by John Horler on piano, Dave Green on bass and Spike Wells on drums. All three had played with Hayes, with Wells being a stalwart of the Tubby Hayes Quartet.
Hayes’ biographer Spillett was full of anecdotes about Hayes, putting each song into perspective with wise cracks à la Ronnie Scott.
The set began with Royal Ascot, Tubby’s dedication to Ronnie Scott. Spillett wasted no time in demonstrating his impeccable credentials with frenetic yet totally controlled hard bop playing. Grits, Beans and Greens, another Hayes composition followed, with Horler sensational on piano. Other numbers included Opus Ocean, Alone Together and Trane’s Blues, with Wells excelling in the latter.
Spillett did precisely what he said that saxophonist Dick Morrissey had advised him not to do, which was to open for Tubby Hayes, as after the set film producer Mark Baxter introduced a showing of his film Tubby Hayes – a man in a hurry.
This quartet of British jazz luminaries gave a knowledgeable audience a bebop masterclass. Quality jazz from quality players.
Words Chaz Brooks
Photo Leigh Darnton