Jazz for Modernists 6 & 7
11: How did you go about promotion and distribution?
MB: I got so entrenched with making the film, I didn’t think about showing it to anybody. We set ourselves that target (Spring 2015)…we were well short – we didn’t have enough footage, or enough money to finish it. We had to finance it ourselves. An archivist who was helping me find the footage from the BBC said to me one day, “you need a distributor, someone to put this out for you”. I thought that was a really good shout, I hadn’t really thought of that. I found a company called Proper Records, a reasonably sized independent record label, putting out lots of stuff by Nick Lowe and Van Morrison, I think. They had a jazz department and the guy I spoke to used to work for Mole Jazz in the 80s, who were like Ray’s, a destination shop for jazz buyers. He’d put out a couple of Tubby Hayes reissue compilations, one being Mexican Green (1967 LP), which he put out through his own Mole Jazz label. So, it was a done deal. Once I told him about Tubby Hayes, he said “we’ll have that!”. So we knew we could get it out into the shops, Amazon was taken care of, Waterstones etc. He also mentioned Foyles, which was where Ray’s Jazz shop is now.
All Night Long (1962), featuring Patrick McGoohan, Charles Mingus and Tubby Hayes
12: The first showing was at Foyles in London [19 November 2015]. Tell us about that.
MB: That was amazing. I just walked in one day and said we were making a film about Tubby Hayes. Can we do a little bit of filming in Ray’s? People going through the racks – cut-away stuff. The guys there were great, really supportive. They said they had an auditorium upstairs and asked if I wanted to launch it up there. It was a 200-seater, fantastic space, so I thought “why not?” The [idea of the] film started in Ray’s, it’s gone back to Ray’s thirty years later. It was the London Jazz festival that week, around October. It all just came together, pure fluke. We were just desperately trying to get it out by a certain time. By getting those guys on board – Proper, Foyles and the London Jazz Festival, it suddenly became very serious. All of a sudden we had deadlines and fairly big-hitting companies looking to speak to us and put our product out.
13: Has the film done well?
MB: Yeah, it’s sold well, we had 2 000 DVDs made and pretty much sold them out within ten weeks. We were delighted with that. From those first sales we earned money to get some more made for Christmas. We’re into our second run. It’s worked.
14: Any evidence that sales of Tubby’s music have increased as a result of the DVD?
MB: I can’t say for certain, but the awareness of his name and his work has gone up. Through my social media, I get a lot of feedback, people saying they’ve never heard of this guy, but like the sound of him, the era, the music, the films he worked on (eg. The Italian Job, Alfie). A lot of 60s enthusiasts that I know personally would go and check out a film, or YouTube, or Spotify and then they may end up with a CD or a bit of vinyl, and then end up with the DVD. It had been quiet for a long time on the Tubby front but now there are a lot more reissues going on.
15: [question from April 2016]: What were the subsequent showings at Regent’s Street Cinema like, in February and just recently in April?
MB: Our screening at the Regent Street cinema in Feb 2016 was a sell out, which was very encouraging for us all and proved that word of the doc. had got round to the right people. A good mixture Mod and 60s enthusiasts as well as film buffs turned up in the 180-strong crowd. We had Simon Spillett and his new quartet play live and after the doc, myself, Simon and director Lee Cogswell took part in a Q & A session. Then DJs took over in the bar with a fine selection of jazz-inspired tracks. The night was such a success that the cinema immediately asked us back and in April we repeated it all again. This time we had an older, more jazz-based crowd, which pleased me. We had new people to tap into! We also screened at Ronnie Scott’s in March, which was a real mark of approval from the UK jazz world. For the rest of 2016, we have other screenings already booked for Gateshead, Southend, Chichester, Brecon and back in London in the coming months.
16: If you had to recommend one Tubby Hayes LP, which would it be?
MB: The one album that everyone should get is Mexican Green, which he made in 66/67. It’s going the Coltrane style, more than the fast, ‘crash-bang-wallop’ sound of Tubby when he was in full flow in the early sixties. There are certain tracks with three or four different styles within one track. It’s not an easy listen, you’ve got to work at it, but that’s the education of it all. That’s the last album he made of any real note, he made a contractual album after that called The Orchestra (1970), an album of cover versions (‘These Boots Are Made for Walking’, ‘Hey Jude’ etc). But Mexican Green is the one I’d definitely go for. From the earlier period, Tubbs (1961), Tubbs’ Tours (1964) and Tubbs in NY (1961) are all valid.
The classic Mexican Green LP (1967)
17: Of all the British sax players of the time, he was perhaps the most well-known in America…
MB: Yeah, definitely. There’d been a musicians’ ban on UK guys going over there. Then it was reciprocal. If Miles Davis played two weeks here, we had to send someone to the States. They didn’t want anybody. There was no one of any note that they wanted. When Tubby popped up, they said “he can do it”. He went to New York in 1961 at the Half Note Club. Miles Davis was in the audience on the first night. Tubby was the one guy who could go out and hold his own in that company. He played two weeks there, mixed with the musicians, recorded and became part of the scene for a little while. A lot of the guys we spoke to said he should have stayed there, committed to two or three years in the States. Personally, I think he liked being the big fish in a small pond. Over here, he’d get plenty of work, plenty of press, TV appearances. He was the only one anyone had heard of.
18: One UK-based artist who did go to America before Tubby was Dizzy Reece. Did Tubby play with him?
MB: They played on a Blue Note LP recorded over here [Blues in Trinity, 1959], with a version of ‘Round Midnight’ on it.
19: By the mid-sixties, of course, we were getting great jazz musicians, but in return were sending over the likes of Herman’s Hermits….
MB: Yeah. Once the beat boom started coming in, jazz clubs would become a beat club, or they’d book more acts like that. That’s what the kids were demanding. Jazz suddenly became quite old overnight. The work dried up quite quickly, or the club gigs dried up. The recordings weren’t selling massive numbers. The Stones and The Beatles were selling in big numbers. The trade papers stopped writing about them [jazz musicians], maybe a little bit of a mention. But really, the front cover would be given to the Beatles, Stones, Small Faces, Who, Otis and soul music. This is why he stared to play on jingles and films, looking for other work.
19: And this would lead Tubby to other work?
MB: Yeah, he’d be hired for a session. He wouldn’t know a lot about the band. His studio or agent would get him a bit of work. He would turn up and pretty much be able to play anything. But the timing was all wrong for him, because he wasn’t very well. He was in and out of hospital for months on end. He was probably offered work, but couldn’t make the gigs for one reason or another. His health wasn’t great [around 70/71] and there’s a school of thought that maybe he was still dabbling a little bit [heroin], and he had a heart valve operation in 1970, and then again in 1972. In 1973, he couldn’t play – he was physically incapable of playing.
20: Finally, would you consider making a feature film about Tubby Hayes starring James Corden in the title role?
MB: Simon (Spillett) has said that he’s aware of Tubby Hayes. The similarity has been pointed out to him. Whether that will ever go anywhere I don’t know? James Corden would be perfect. The only problem is Tubby lost about five stone, six stone, around the 60s when the drugs kicked in and I think Mr. Corden might struggle to lose the weight.
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