Tubby Hayes Quartet
Seven Steps to Heaven: Live at the Hopbine
Gearbox LP ****

On Seven Steps to Heaven: Live at the Hopbine, a quartet record with Hayes joined on tenor saxophone and flute by pianist Mike Pyne, bassist Daryl Runswick, and drummer Tony Oxley, the latter usually known in avant garde circles heard unadorned in the limpid circumstances of the musical environment here with the cave-like audience applause just one aspect of the “realness” of the session. Just over a half an hour of music issued here for the first time, spread over three tracks, ‘Someday My Prince Will Come’, ‘Seven Steps to Heaven’, and ‘Alone Together’, it’s Pyne who earns plaudits first and he’s serene and even Bill Evans-like in his lyricism on ‘Someday My Prince Will Come’ to begin with. But of course it’s Hayes who then shines, firstly on flute on the same track, and if you can imagine walking into a club mid-set a little hesitatingly but then quickly realising you’re in the right place at the right time by the music you hear, you'll recognise that completely reassuring feeling. Recorded in 1972 at the Hopbine pub in North Wembley the year before Hayes’ death, and not very long after Hayes had returned to playing following heart surgery, as saxophonist Simon Spillett intimates in the informative and detailed sleeve notes, the sound quality is better than the indifferent Harkit Hopbine, one of a number of separate recordings in circulation made at the pub. Of the three tracks there are different pleasures to be had beyond the improved quality of the audio. Pyne of course on ‘Someday...’, Hayes’ flute part on the same track, and Oxley’s wonderful time-keeping throughout. ‘Alone Together’, the Schwartz/Dietz tearjerker that goes back to the Broadway of the early-1930s, may well be the pick of the three, Pyne “going fourth”, Hayes tender, the tempo perfect and true, a moment caught. SG