Tempo Records UK (1946-61)
Rarest of the rare: Tempo.
Tempo was a UK Jazz label founded in 1946 by Colin Pomroy and George Davies, issuing jazz on 78′s. In 1953 British Vogue acquired the Tempo catalogue and the following year 1954 Vogue was acquired by Decca under Tony Hall, who used it to issue British modern jazz recordings (TAP 12″ series) until it discarded the label in 1961, cosolidating it under Vogue.
Tempo runout with “VGMT” matrix codes the same style as Vogue and Contemporary Vogue, indicating they were pressed by Decca, New Malden. A dealer once told me Decca mastered jazz records on the same lathes used for classical music, reflecting the greater sensitivity required for mastering complex orchestral works and not three-chord tricks from the Pop music Division. Possibly true, or a vinyl myth.
Both examples below show deep groove dies in use, one under the outer rim of the label, the other in the more conventional central area. Deep Groove has no bearing on the sound quality other than confirming the record was pressed some time on or before 1960 when these dies were the norm, the period in which vinyl pressing was generally at its best in audio quality. (Absence of DG is also a useful help in weeding out modern vinyl inferior clones)
According to Tubby Hayes, interviewed by Les Tomkins in 1966: “I’d been recording for Tony Hall at Tempo Records—which was very good. I’ve got nothing against that. Tony gave us loads of LP’s to do of different jazz things, myself and Ronnie and Jimmy Deuchar and people like that. But you could only buy them in Dobell’s. You couldn’t buy them anywhere else”
Only buy Tempo Records in Dobells!? Dobells Folk and Jazz, the legendary shop at 75-77 Charing Cross Road during the Fifties and Sixties, and which closed in the early 1980′s. This may go some way to explaining the extreme rarity of Tempo records, and their eye-watering prices on eBay.
“Every Jazz fan is born within the sound of Dobell’s”
Tony Hall, Head of Tempo Records, commented on the “problem” of sound engineers:
“every session was a struggle with the engineers. They didn’t understand jazz and they didn’t really want to do jazz dates…. The Decca engineers could not get the tight Van Gelder sound, they just couldn’t get the balance right. I couldn’t specify the engineer I wanted. It was a case of who was left over at the time. Bert Steffens did a lot of the Tempo stuff, but he didn’t feel the music, you had to keep the beer flowing for him. The Tempo records weren’t promoted or marketed and they weren’t selling….”
Complete Tempo discography here: http://vzone.virgin.net/davidh.taylor/recordt.htm. Below, an example of what happens when a Tempo now hits eBay, as this did only recently, with 37 bids:
(Tempo also released a wide range of EP s however, these are “outwith my purview” as they say, so I have nothing really to contribute on these, other than to note that they are a lot cheaper and less collectible than the LPs)
The Tempo catalogue went on to be reissued on vinyl in the early 1980′s on the UK Jasmine label. Widely overlooked as mere “reissues”, Jasmine releases are excellent audio quality despite being dubbed from the earlier LPs, though obviously no better than the quality of their source. Given original Tempos are rarer than hen’s teeth and cost thousands if and when one comes to market, the Jasmines, at about £10, are a very affordable vinyl alternative and a really good listen.
Jasmine now issue CDs of all the catalogue.
Tempo “in the flesh”
TAP 22 The Jazz Couriers
TAP 25 Wilton Gaynair
Other TAP – I should be so wealthy!