Splinters - Split the Difference

Artist: Tubby Hayes

Date of Release: 01/05/2009

Catalogue no: RR013

Label: Reel Recordings

Price: £10.99

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Track Listing







One In One Hundred




Two In One Hundred






SPLINTERS is remembered, indeed lionized, by knowing jazz fans as the monumental musical meeting of tenor giant Tubby Hayes, trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, saxophonist Trevor Watts, pianist Stan Tracey, bassist Jeff Clyne, and legendary drummers John Stevens and Phil Seamen. SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE is the rare recording Trevor Watts made of the group’s first public appearance, at London’s 100 Club on May 22nd, 1972. Here is our first opportunity to experience this leaderless ensemble of British jazz greats, with their special musical personalities summoned to create a group music with robust telepathic energy, as informed by the ‘jam’ history of modern jazz. The rollercoaster of emotionally extroverted playing, as it boils over a continuous torrent of exuberant double drumming from John Stevens and Phil Seamen, is a wondrous journey for the ear to behold. On that night the musicians were joyfully cajoling each other, and their exhortations are preserved in a dynamic recording that allows the listener to bear witness to such a once in a lifetime event. Two extended sets of continuous collective improvisations comprise this full length CD release, and our remastering care was guided by the sonic requirements for the music itself, which was first captured on a cassette tape recording. Including personal reflections from Trevor Watts, and 100 Club concert photographs by Jak Kilby, SPLINTERS: SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE guarantees an experience to be filed under essential.




21/04/2009 Simon Spillett

I'm back to blogging after a considerable absence. There's been no real reason for the lay-off, I just haven't had much to talk about of late and what with the world now overrun by Twitter addicts documenting paint drying, I thought I'd spare the net any similar tittle-tattle.

However, a new CD release has launched me into action simply because I think it's genuinely brilliant and the more people who know about it the better. Splinters - Split The Difference (Reel Recordings RR 013) is a major new addition to the Brit-jazz archive. Recorded at the 100 Club in May 1972, it documents the first ever performance by the cross-generational British jazz supergroup Splinters, featuring Tubby Hayes, Kenny Wheeler, Trevor Watts, Stan Tracey, Jeff Clyne, John Stevens and Phil Seamen. Until now the gig had gone unheard since the day it was recorded, tucked away in Trevor Watt's cassette drawer.

The enterprising boss of the Canadian Reel Recordings label, Michael King has effected a major musical coup in securing Watts permission to release the recording (I know I tried the same once, only to find that Trevor wanted the music to belong in a certain time and place). Like so much British jazz of yesteryear, Splinters have had an almost apocryphal reputation. With a mouth-watering line-up of giants like Hayes, Seamen and Tracey rubbing shoulders with free-jazz icons Stevens and Watts, the band aimed to bridge musical divides and come up with a wholly improvised ensemble jazz all it's own. Thus far the success of the venture was only documented by a single BBC Jazz Workshop broadcast (still changing hands among collectors) and a review of the bands first gig in Jazz Journal which succeeded as a piece of musical critique by actually making you wish you were there.

Fortunately, now you can go back, and far from revealing an embarrassing piece of musical experimentation that belongs in a time-capsule, the recording is a blistering example of collective musical creativity.

The albums merits are many and I won't spoil the surprise by detailing the frequent high-spots, but suffice to say across two very lengthy improvisations the band weave an absorbing and intoxicating aural tapestry . For long-term British jazz enthusiasts, there's the unusual opportunity to catch the late, great Phil Seamen in true partnership (never competition) with his one-time protege John Stevens, conjuring a magical polyrhythmic carpet one minute and then grooving like there's no tomorrow the next, and, of course, I can't leave this issue without mentioning the surprisingly apt contributions of Tubby Hayes himself. Martin Davidson said much the same thing when reviewing the original gig in Jazz Journal, but Tubby really does fit beautifully into this much freer context, offering a solo on the first track (titled One In One Hundred) that - here goes, neck on the line - I think is one of the most inventive and unusual of his latterday work. Likewise his locking horns with altoist Trevor Watts on the second number. I must confess that I hadn't listened to much of Watts before (a couple of knock-out BBC Jazz Workshop sets with Amalgam aside) but he almost steals the album, notably in a discursive dialogue with Kenny Wheeler on Two In One Hundred.

Finally mention must be made of Michael King's production. The music was rescued from Trevor Watts original Philips C-120 cassette (and how many of us have had one of these old beauties snarl up and break on us?!) and sounds surprisingly healthy. King has also designed a gorgeous package for the CD: a gatefold sleeve with Jak Kilby's photographs from the gig itself, together with a short sleeve note by Trevor Watts (culled from this writers correspondence with Watts) and, adding to the sense of this release rescuing something from the archives, an inlay and disc design incorporating the original hand-written cassette box.

Needless to say, go out and buy this album. It really is a marvellous record. And, if you're the kind of listener who might not otherwise go out of the way to hear mavericks like Watts or John Stevens, or who might think that the prospect of seventy minutes of collective free jazz is musical anathema, don't be put off. This is inventive music of the highest order, performed by a group comprising some of the greatest jazz musicians from these islands, and, as the bands original rationale declared, it defies pigeon-holes and critical prejudice.


12/04/2009 Nick Evans

“What a session! The dynamism and artistry of each musician is wonderful and I was busy foot-tapping throughout. I absolutely loved it.”

Nick Evans, trombonist/composer


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