The Jazz Couriers In Concert (Tempo, 1958)

Last Updated: January 27, 2018

Track Selection: The Serpent (Hayes) 

. . .

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….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.


Collectors Notes

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.

9 thoughts on “The Jazz Couriers In Concert (Tempo, 1958)

  1. Well done for picking up the Jazz Couriers record. I have the MFP issue. The eye-watering prices for Brit Jazz is down to the fact they sold in tiny quantities on equally tiny specialist labels. Even the albums on the major labels ( EMI, Decca,Deram ) sold in small numbers. More than all of this, Brit Jazz was fantastic and the quality rarely wavers.

  2. Part two!

    Fantastic Voyage have access to the Ember masters and everything sounds lovely, except of course for the tiny bits they’ve excised.
    Then bugget label supreme Avid come along an reissue the same material but direct from the original Tempo LP, sounding to these ears very wooly indeed.

    So, to conclude, there is as yet – incredibly – no complete decent sounding CD version of this iconic album available!

    In 2008, I was assembling what would have been the definitve version of if for Jasmine Records and had the vinyl remastered professionally and added a previously unissued version of Love Walked in from the same tour, recorded in Manchester two days prior to the Dominion concert.
    Alas, Acrobat pipped us to the post. Anyone wanting to read the sleeve notes for that issue, telling the whole stroy of the Brubeck/Couriers tour should get in touch.

    • you fools. You can get a CD set of 7 Tubby Hayes albums for about £7.50. And no clicks and scratches or flipsides. Sound is better too. Vinyl superiority is an urban myth. I suppose you must be finance goons earning stupid money and spending it on stupid things.

      LJC says:
      Belinda, if you go to The Louvre in Paris, you can buy a postcard of The Mona Lisa for fifty cents. Looks like it. As for vinyl superiority being an “urban myth”, you know this how? Saying so doesn’t make things so. Some of us sit and listen and make comparisons in the real world, on which I can confidently say vinyl in a revealing system is hugely more authentic listening experience, based on comparing the same source on CD.

  3. Interesting history this one. Released on Tempo initially (although listed on the back cover of TAP 22 as “A Herald recording”, whoever they were) it was then leased to MFP by Ember Records, who own the masters. Everyone has seen the MFP reissue from the mid-sixties, in fact it’s one of the few Tubby vinyl’s you can still pick up without necessitating amputation.

    Ember have done some pretty beastly things in reissuing this on CD over the years; in 2001 they put it out combined with the Couriers first album from the previous year, cutting Ronnie’s chat and losing Guys and Dolls. The sound was dreadful too. They then licensed it to Acrobat Records in 2007 and it appeared again without the Scott gags but with Guys and Dolls restored.

    The trouble this time is it had been mastered on a home PC and has lovely audible “tennis”
    sounds on several tracks – boing, boing!

    Then……in 2009 Fantastic Voyage take over the Ember back catalogue and produce a three disc set of Tubby’s work across 1957 to 1961. The live Couriers tracks come out fresh as a daisy, all the Scott links are included and hey presto – no bouncy reverb for the band to swin through! Wonderful…..but there’s a few bars missing during the exchanges on Cheek to Cheek, probably shaved off to get the whole thing onto a CD.

  4. Thx for kind comments guys.
    Over on Britjazz’s blog there is a download link to the whole concert – I see its the Music for Pleasure budget reissue. (Cheapskate, but understandable!) Hope Britjazz wont mind me reposting his link here

    In the best jazz tradition, Tubby died young. One of the UK’s best known jazz musicians, he died on 8 June 1973 during heart surgery at Hammersmith Hospital, London, age just 38. He left behind a passionate and fanatical jazz following, evidenced by the stratospheric prices commanded by his original vinyl.

  5. Posts like this are especially entertaining when they include a good “collector’s note” and this post fits the description perfectly. Oh, and “The Serpent” is a superb track. I’ve played it five times in a row now 😉

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