Jazz Club: Tubby Hayes

Dick Jones

The chunter of the bass,
a ruminant, chewing the
syllables over the heft
and shuffle of the drums.
A hi-hat sneeze, a pebble-
dash across the snare.
Eyes closed, strap-hanging
in rhythm like a passenger,
he nurses the tenor, cheek
nuzzled against the curve
of mouthpiece, waiting.

We huddle round the table,
heads swinging, on the nod
inside blue fumes. I see us
across the room – two
impasto vagabonds, skinny
chancers, callow, untried,
painted by Soutine, in blues
and blacks; two grotesques
trapped in a box of shadows.

And then there’s voltage.
First it’s the shock of a
clicking relay: a press-roll,
a rim-shot, a four-bar hiatus.
And then he’s bucking like
a great bull waking out of
a dream, his horn fighting
the thick air, spilling a
tumbling mess of wisdom,
blown out of light and
into the dark on a long
unfurling breath, the tale
of a messenger with
too much to tell
and too little time.

And like a dreamer waking,
here in my small piece
of the real world, I’m up
on my feet. Not to dance
or to worship or to scat
my own shower of notes
back at him, but just to
wake up for the first time
to the sound of surprise and
to stay standing while my heart
shifts a beat and my blood
is drawn by new tides
for the first time.

(Read by Cerys Matthews on her BBC 6 Music show.)

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