Invitation: Live at The Top Alex 1973
Catalogue Number: ACMCD4391
The United Kingdom, March 1973: Pink Floyd release ‘Dark Side of The Moon’: the provisional IRA detonate bombs at Whitehall and The Old Bailey; and saxophonist Tubby Hayes and his quartet perform one of their final engagements outside of London, taking to the stage of the Top Alex, Southend-on-Sea, as part of the pub's regular jazz presentations. To Hayes and his band, who'd been together as a unit for over three years, it was hardly a gig to raise eyebrows; a typical, jazz club blow in a suburban pub backroom, the very thing that the saxophonist had begun his career doing twenty-three years earlier. But now, Hayes was no longer a star ascendant, or operating like the jazz dynamo he'd been in his mid-1960s heyday. He was, quite literally, running out of time. Three months after the Top Alex appearance, he was dead, aged just 38, finally halted by the heart problems that had plagued his final years. While the press obituaries rightly accorded Hayes his deserved position as one of Britain's greatest ever jazz talents, they also noted the cruel irony that he and his band hadn't entered a recording studio since 1969. Indeed, how the Tubby Hayes Quartet - a group which one obituarist compared to the identical line-up led by John Coltrane – sounded in its final years became something of a mystery. The discovery of privately recorded tapes of the Top Alex performance, issued for the first time on this Acrobat release, provides not only a valedictory souvenir of the quartet in its final phase, but also a lesson in its leader’s still deepening musical maturity; close to the end, Hayes draws on everything he'd learned, experienced and pioneered to date, as well as revealing clues as to where his music might have headed next. Packaged with rare photographs and memorabilia from the night itself, featuring reminiscences by band member Spike Wells, and others who witnessed the gig, and including an in-depth booklet note by Hayes' biographer, saxophonist Simon Spillett, this album is a final, melancholy reminder of a truly gigantic musical legend.