The figure and voice of Ronnie Scott is the first thing you see and hear in this new documentary released during the 80th year since Britjazz sax icon Tubby Hayes’ birth.
What could be more fitting than Hayes’ old sparring partner and one of his greatest admirers, a flickering vision caught in atmospheric black and white?
Narrated by The Office’s Martin Freeman, directed by Lee Cogswell and produced by Mark Baxter and Sam Pattinson, this is both a labour of love and a treasure trove of visual memorabilia and remembrances from a host of expert figures including Hayes’ biographer Simon Spillett as well as musical colleagues and family members including Tubby’s son Richard.
The tone from the start is celebratory, and talking head after talking head refers to Hayes’ sheer facility and impact on audiences.
Michael Horovitz, Peter Blake, Ray Gelato, Spike Wells – the drummer who was in Tubby’s band – are among a host of figures on hand ready to reel off anecdotes or commentary with musical excerpts underlaid skilfully. It feels like the sort of documentary you used to see on TV in say the Arena slot on BBC or The South Bank Show.
Weighing in at under an hour and certainly in production terms very well put together, with poke-your-eye-out visuals and good sound some of the Hayes playing is truly awesome, the film-makers do well to capture this, and as BBC Radio London’s Robert Elms comments Hayes’ sound simply speaks Soho then and now.
Some of the most illuminating aspects are discussions of Hayes as a proto Mod and dissections of his film appearances, including spots on The Italian Job and on long forgotten movies that spawned such gems as the collectors’ favourite ‘Voodoo’ add plenty of added interest. But it’s the rare period footage that gleams and seduces, for instance the Off the Wagon clip that features a moustachioed Hayes and the quartet.
Anyone with a passing interest in Hayes and this now distant period in British jazz in a year that has upped Hayes’ profile particularly for a new generation will lap this film up.
Released on 26 October. During the London Jazz Festival there’s a screening of A Man in a Hurry at Ray’s Jazz inside Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London on 19 November with live music from a band featuring Simon Spillett and John Critchinson