Film / Jazz / Music

Tubby Hayes, the modern jazz maestro from the suburbs

tubbyTubby Hayes may not be on everyone’s list of the all-time jazz greats, but that could be just because he wasn’t American.

A fascinating film documentary, Tubby Hayes – A Man In A Hurry, portrays a musical genius, who would have been revered if he’d been raised in Los Angeles or Brooklyn, instead of the leafy London suburb of Raynes Park.

In the early 1960s, sharp-dressed Hayes was regularly on primetime TV (and in those days, that counted for something, as there were only two channels in the UK) and when he made his first appearance in New York in 1961, the gig attracted the likes of Miles Davis, Paul Desmond and Cannonball Adderley.

The 55-minute film from Mono Media shows Hayes to have been a trend-setting figure on the modern jazz scene. A musical maestro and a style icon, likened to Michael Caine – though with an unfashionable physique at 5ft 5in and 14 stones (apparently, he didn’t mind being called ‘Tubby’, but hated any reference to his [lack of] height).

I confess my only knowledge of him was as the brilliant sax player in the ‘Biff Bailey’ (played by Roy Castle) band in the excellent horror movie Dr Terror’s House of Horrors. But this film, written and produced by Mark Baxter and directed by Lee Cogswell, certainly makes me want to explore further.

With some fantastic archive footage and engaging interviews with musicians, artists and journalists, the film gives a superb insight into the high-speed lifestyle of a supremely talented jazzman and the smoke-filled clubs of Soho, which was the hub of the British jazz scene.

At the forefront of British modern jazz, the ‘modernist’ Hayes has an important place in the development of the Mod movement, so it is perhaps no surprise to find actor Martin Freeman (a well-known lover of soul music) narrating this film and also being an executive producer along with the Modfather himself, Paul Weller.

As the title suggests, Hayes lived life in the fast lane, and it took its toll. He died in 1973 at the age of 38. Thankfully, his catalogue of work remains; and this excellent film has persuaded me to explore it.

You can find out more and order a copy of the film here.

 

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