ReviewsOne of the year's picks in the Guardian's Best of Music Books, 2015
I would recommend this book not only to jazz buffs but *anyone* interested in a well-written music biography and the ‘Swinging Sixties’.
This magnum opus is a triumph and perfectly complements Simon Spillett's renowned musical homage to the master. I knew Tubby Hayes very well towards the end of his life on and off the bandstand and I can tell you Simon has done his subject more than justice. The writing is authentic, accurate, warm and very readable. A comprehensive biography is something the jazz world has been wanting for over 40 years. It must have been awaiting, and has at last clearly found, the ideal person to write it!
Spike Wells, drummer with Tubby Hayes 1968-1973
Sir John Dankworth described Tubby Hayes as a 'prime force' in the world of jazz saxophone playing, from the moment he appeared as a fifteen year old prodigy to the time of his premature death. Maybe the full value of his talent never came to be realised, but he was a tremendous musician on flute, saxophone and vibes, and we were privileged to work with him at the peak of his powers.
Dame Cleo Laine
During the brief power-walk of his life Tubby Hayes regularly re-asserted his rightful place at the artistic pinnacles of both the British and international jazz scenes - and (even more remarkably) set up powerful performing challenges to the greatest of his American counterparts. Fellow tenor-saxophonist Simon Spillett's monumental biography of Hayes combines needlepoint research with a musician's judgment, true affection - plus a grace of expression - that sets him securely in the pantheon of great jazz biographers. His work has ensured that Hayes' position in jazz history is comprehensively secured for the music's sake.
Digby Fairweather, jazz trumpeter
At once a valuable re-creation of a vanished world in which jazz’s centre of gravity seemed immovably fixed in New York and Los Angeles, and a stirring and moving account of the career of a musician who arguably did more than any of his contemporaries to bring about a seismic shift that resulted in jazz becoming, in the best sense of the word, “world” music. It also benefits greatly from being written by a professional musician with an unerring eye for the apposite, enlightening critical quote... A vital contribution to a subject Equinox are doing such a good job of chronicling: British jazz history.
For the past two years, I have been producing a documentary on Tubby Hayes and eventually met Simon Spillett in the course of my research. Everyone I spoke to early on, soon asked me 'you have spoken to Simon haven't you?' It was very obvious Mr Spillett was the 'go to' man with regards to all things Tubby Hayes related and this marvellous book confirms that fact 100%.
It is a mighty work and in my humble opinion does Tubby proud, detailing as it does the highs and lows of his life as well as his 23 year career professional playing career. It is written with immense skill, with an excellent turn of phrase and you just know you are reading an author who knows his subject inside out. I have urged anyone with not only a passing interest in learning more on Tubby Hayes to read it, but also those who want to know more on post war life Britain and the world of UK jazz back then. For me, it is the definitive work on the subject and will always will be.
Mark Baxter, writer and filmmaker including a forthcoming Tubby Hayes documentary out in October 2015
Spillett has created THE definitive Tubby Hayes book which will be essential to any old and new Tubby fan!
One of the best biographies I’ve read in years.
Thomas Cunniffe, Jazz History Online
It's the first really rounded account of a British jazz musician I've read, and I think I've read most of them.
This is a beautifully written and exhaustively researched volume.
Nobody is better placed to make an informed and authoritative assessment.. than Spillett who presents here a portrait of the life and work of Edward Brian Hayes which is unsparing and unsentimental. [A] remarkable biography.
Spillet is himself an award-winning saxman, and has therefore been able to bring technical analysis into the pages of a book which absorbingly relates Hayes's professional endeavours and also tells of his personal life, including his unfortunate addictions and some domestic complications.
Simon Spillett has written a book about Tubby Hayes that tells us a great deal about the man and his music, and about British modern jazz generally. It’s closely researched, with ample notes and a useful discography. And it made me want to listen again to Hayes and all the other musicians we perhaps didn’t fully appreciate in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Northern Review of Books
What this book has successfully achieved is to paint a three dimensional portrait of a genius but, crucially, it's written by someone who's not merely a Hayes expert - very probably the Hayes expert - but also a professional jazz musician. Few books have been written about post-war jazz, and none concerning its most illustrious star, making this eminently readable biography a strong contender for jazz book of the year.
One of the finest jazz biographies of recent times. A big book in every way, it stands as a worthy tribute to a colossal talent.
A biography well worthy of his subject. Spillett tells the tale as a jazzman should, never missing a beat, relating stories drawn from Hayes's family, his fellow musicians and a vast array of archives. Everything's there. Just like Hayes's sax mastery.
A fine work of jazz scholarship and a pleasure to read.
BBC Music Magazine
This is a superlative biography and one that every jazz aficionado should read.
Soul and Jazz and Funk
With a sparkling turn of phrase and a spooky empathy for an era that may as well be the dark ages, so different is it to the present, Spillett makes Tubby walk again here, grinning, vibing (in every sense), blowing. It's a fine line, straight and true.
Vivid, richly detailed and based on a staggering amount of research. A real page-turner, eloquently and carefully written, and an essential read.
The Jazz Rag
This is a great, rich book of jazz writing which will stand comparison with any jazz biographies from the past.
Very expertly written by another enormously gifted UK jazz tenor saxophonist. The finest piece of biographical writing I've come across in many a year. Very strongly recommended indeed.
Clarinet & Saxophone
A superb and very well researched biography.
LA Jazz Scene
It is that time of year. Walk into any branch of Waterstone's or W.H. Smith and there laid out on a table inside the door are the biographies and autobiographies. The ideal Christmas present. Simon Spillett's biography of Tubby Hayes came out a few months ago, but it still deserves its place on those tables. To say it is comprehensive is an understatement.
Sandy Brown Jazz
Spillett's explanation of the trials and tribulations of Hayes' bid to become a world-class jazz musician while toiling in a country that wasn't always receptive to his goals and ambitions is, in itself, the basis of an unusually accomplished work of jazz literature. Markedly superior to the efforts most jazz biographers, the manner in which Spillett treats Hayes' music is another, essential component of the book. Throughout the text he interjects a lucid, painstaking analysis of a number of items from Hayes' discography, as well as drawing from an abundance of bootleg tapes made available by musicians and diehard fans. Spillett doesn't rely on the opinions of critics to give the reader a clear idea of what Hayes' music was about—the author's experiences as a jazz tenor saxophonist as well as decades of immersion in the sounds of his subject are well suited to the task. The result of his analysis and passion for the music makes a convincing case that Hayes was indeed a great jazz saxophonist. Spillett's measured yet persuasive account of Hayes' musicianship gives the uninitiated listener incentive to investigate the body of work of this undervalued jazzman.
All About Jazz
This is one of the best jazz biographies I have ever read. It is meticulously researched, perceptive and full of insights on Tubby and his music. It is also a very readable piece of social history which brings the period vividly to life. Best of all though, its just a great story, beautifully written. I would unreservedly recommended it to any readership musical or not.
Alan Barnes, jazz saxophonist
The turbulent yet brilliant jazz life of London-born tenor saxophonist Edward “Tubby” Hayes (1935 -1973) is powerfully set down in Simon Spillett’s biography. Spillett is himself an admired exponent of the tenor horn and his intense musical insight, combined with a scholar’s commitment to detail, enables his protagonist and his musical world to come convincingly and movingly to life.
Chris Searle, The Morning Star
The author's incredible attention to detail, phenomenal research and his obvious desire to tell a true, all-encompassing life story of Tubby Hayes makes for a fascinating experience for the reader.
The sum and substance of this book is first rate.