Last Updated: January 27, 2018
Track Selection: The Serpent (Hayes)
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Ronnie Scott (ts) Tubby Hayes (ts) Terry Shannon (p) Phil Bates (b) Bill Eyden (d) Live at the Dominion Theatre, Tottenham Court Road, London in 1957
Britain’s answer to the Jazz Messengers. The Dominion Theatre concert is not quite as sought after as it might be, having been reissued on the budget label “Music for Pleasure” (good line, that) but it is still a Tempo and the original 1B first pressing. And it sounds stunning. Better still the playing is stunning. I had forgotten how good Tubby Hayes was, and Ronnie Scott too. The track selection is a composition by Tubby.Blistering saxophone runs, two tenors, fabulous driving hard bop vintage 1957, jazz in one of its best years.
Sited at the junction of Oxford Street and the Tottenham Court Road, the Dominion was a strange choice of venue. Not like a smokey proper jazz club like The Flamingo in Soho, but the economics probably worked better with a cinema-sized audience.You can imagine the intermission, when the lady comes out to the centre aisle, all in white with a tray of ice cream tubs and lollies, and a pot for change. Or being a Jazz Concert, may be something a little stronger.
Labels, run-out and liner notes
Tempo labels seem not to bother with the usual way-finding. No “Side 1” or “Side 2”. Perhaps they didn’t know at the time of pressing.
Easy when you know how. “First Matrix pressing, Decca Engineer “B”. Ron Mason, I believe?” Bore people at parties with your encyclopaedic knowledge of stamper numbering, (and make sure you never get invited again) What would Don Draper say in this situation? “H–e–llo!.. are you into vinyl? I am, big time. No no, not the stuff you wear! Though now you mention it..um….freshen your Martini? Nice figure. Have you ever considered a career in Advertising?”
The matrix code bearing the same “VMGT” legend as Contemporary Vogue UK pressings of US Contemporary Records. Tempo was I believe the label exclusively for British Jazz.
Tempo are extraordinarily rare and inordinately expensive, the “Rolls Royce” of British Jazz. This copy of Jazz Couriers had been on the shelf at a London store for over three months, at an asking price that would send the average walk-in vinyl collector in need of a lie down. You would have to be a committed jazz fan, and you would have to know what it is worth, to know it was really quite cheap. Here is another Tempo on eBay at the time of writing: Tubby Hayes “Tubbys Groove” asking price £550. Yes that is quite a lot, isn’t it?
When you press the “Make Offer” button, it emits a hollow laugh. Must be a new feature on eBay, like a checkout girl in the supermarket commenting on your taste in shopping.
Here is another one, at the time of writing £389 with 19 bids and some time still to go, and I am ashamed to say I don’t even know who Tommy Whittle is.
Having acquired one Tempo already (“Blue Bogey” Wilton Gaynair), I was up for another. I had been watching The Jazz Couriers in a London store over three months, hoping they might reduce it, but no such luck. I considered making an offer, a conversation in your head: ” Hi man, how’s business, ummm, recession and all that, bad huh? That Tempo in the rack, I see it hasn’t sold in three months. (Dealer narrows eyes) Would you err, consider err an err.. an offer?” Some dealers have a softer side, they want every record to find a good home, their shop a sort of Vinyl Adoption Agency. Then again some are hard as nails, the type who would previously have been thrown out of the Gestapo for being too cruel.
Thinking about it, appealing to a dealer’s better nature was probably a bad idea, so to soften the blow I packed up some duplicates on the Blue Note front, hoping to trade and get the price down to a more sensible level. It is one thing to throw money at a record, glass in hand, “in a moment of madness” on eBay, but quite another to do the same thing in the cold light of day. That feels like paying your annual income tax bill, in cash.
Off to the shop, and straight away my patter fell flat. “Yes, it is the sort of thing that will stay on the shelf for a long time. Then one day – the right person will walk in, and it will sell, just like that” No negotiation, and he’s right of course. That’s how it works. It is not like an auction environment, retail works different. So it was time to trade, which helped take the sting out, but still worked out pretty expensive
But it’s now mine all mine, and that cover is a true piece of history in British Jazz, even if it is a bit tatty. Not altogether unlike its new owner.