Tubby Hayes is indisputably the most celebrated of all British jazz musicians, a man in a hurry indeed who died on June 8, 1973 in Hammersmith Hospital in London, at a mere 38 years of age. As a youth, the gifted tenor saxophonist had been influenced by Coltrane, Parker and Getz. While he learned by listening to their records, he also emulated the jazz life-style, apparently in the belief that lots of drink and drugs would enhance the performance.
There was presumably more to the addictions than that - there always is - but A Man in A Hurry is not at liberty to probe into the shadows. If there was some terrible hurt, it is not evident in the numerous still photos and the few extracts from concert footage which show a man who smiled easily and appeared to carry no burdens, while playing like an angelic demon.
At five years of age, accompanied by his father, Edward Brian Hayes saw a number of saxophones in the window of a London music shop and apparently fixed on the tenor as his instrument of choice. Dad was a violinist and band-leader himself, who promised the young lad that he would buy him a sax when he was 12. Thus in 1946, he received his first tenor - by 15 he was playing jazz gigs at night, while still a schoolboy. He formed his own eight-piece band at 20 and was also fronting a quartet at the time.
The NME dubbed him The Little Giant, but somewhere along the line he got the enduring nickname Tubby. In this engaging, affectionate documentary, his eldest son Richard, fellow musicians, and leading UK jazz enthusiasts remember one of nature’s gentlemen who was also a self-destructive genius. He could ‘burn the candle at both ends and then start on the middle', as one contributor puts it. His first marriage ended in divorce in 1960, and his girlfriend jazz vocalist Joy Marshall died following an accidental overdose in 1968.
Aside from the recordings and the time spent with fellow saxophonist Ronnie Scott as co-leaders of the Jazz Couriers, Tubby also had cameo roles in Charlie Chaplin’s film A King in New York and in the Peter Cushing movie, Dr Terror’s House of Horrors. He was heard on the soundtrack to The Italian Job (1969) and there is footage also in this film of Tubby playing the theme from The Pink Panther.
The revered Irish guitarist Louis Stewart played in one of his later line-ups, but, long before that, Tubby was the first English jazz soloist to play in America. The night he took the stage of the Half Note club in New York in 1961, Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderley both came to pay homage. “He had the finest technique and fluency of anybody around, I would say in the world, “ says drummer Spike Wells of this great musician, whose short but highly productive career is remembered in Mark Baxter and Lee Cogswell’s fine film.