Simon Spillett Big Band Celebrates Tubby Hayes
(The Village on the Green, Aspull, Wigan. Wigan Jazz Festival. 8 July 2022. Review by Frank Griffith)
The music and legacy of British saxophonist, flautist, vibist and composer/arranger Tubby Hayes was in full swing at Wigan Jazz Fest. Back after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, you couldn’t imagine a more appropriate group to revive this festival, which is in its 35e year.
Held at Village On The Green in leafy Aspull (a short drive from downtown Wigan), this well-appointed venue has much of the atmosphere of a Soho nightclub. Filled with filtered masked lighting with a neon ambiance, this 300+ seat venue sports a glow that fully complements the sounds of jazz.
Oh yes….the music….The Spillett Big Band served up a two and a half hour chart-topping show from the Tubby Hayes Big Band which was active from the late 1950s until the leader’s untimely death in 1973 at age of just 37. Most of the pieces performed were composed and arranged by Hayes alongside offerings from Harry South, Jimmy Deuchar and Ian Hamer.
Simon SpilletThe involvement of was incalculable – standing in front and subtly gesturing and growling with every note and rhythmic thrust – as if the entire ensemble was channeled through his very being. His many solo forays added a lot to the proceedings, but never at the expense of the wealth of soloists in this world-class group. His release on “Seven Steps To Heaven” impressed with his lucid, centered tone, backed by flawless technique linking his hardbop swing vocabulary without hesitation.
To begin with, the rhythm section, led by Robin Asplandfleet and backing piano alongside the solid bass of Alec Dankworth was enhanced by the relentless dynamism and precision (both as soloist and time lord) of Pete Caterthe drums.
Trumpeters Steve Fishwick and Bruce Adams shone everywhere in contrasting styles. Fishwick with its endless melodic dynamism in all registers was offset by Adams’ mercurial and playful nods and nods to the many decades and denizens of jazz trumpeting. Similarly, the trombone solos of ian batman and Marc Rossignol offered a delicious mix for all to enjoy. One cannot underestimate the robust reliability of the solo trombone of Andy Flaxman That is. A top horn section to be sure.
On the saxophone side, the front-line arsenal of distinctive reed blowers included the cold, measured lines, peppered with the odd sheen of graininess of Robert Fowler which stood out in a winning way with the robust and very swinging melodies of Karen Sharp – both wielding tenor saxophones. The powerful and brilliant shine of Sam Mayne‘s alto contrasts nicely with Pete Longtour de force of the flute on “The Scandinavian” by Harry South. Not to be outdone, the irrepressible Alan Barnes deftly occupied the baritone sax chores both underpinning the lower regions of the ensemble and weighing in full with upbeat and refreshing solo commentary.
Spillett and his band do Tubbs……and how. What’s not to like? With many rounds of applause to Ian Darrington – MBE and his fine Wigan Jazz team – a fantastic evening indeed. Surely a defining moment in British jazz.
Frank Griffith is a saxophonist and arranger based in Liverpool. His weekly radio show, The Jazz Cavern, airs on http://www.mykindamusic24.com on Thursdays from 9-10pm UK time. http://www.frankriffith.co.uk
LINK: Wigan Jazz Festival website