Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

HUGHES, Spike

(b Patrick Cairnes Hughes, 19 Oct. '08, London; d 2 Feb. '87, Brighton) Bassist, composer, bandleader, critic. Studied composition in Vienna and wrote his first criticism '23, composed Sonata for Solo Cello '26, enchanted by the American all-black revue Blackbirds in London. He taught himself string bass, played in group the Night Watchman; first recordings as Spike Hughes and his Decca-Dents. Introduced to Duke Ellington, he wrote and recorded 'A Harlem Symphony' '31, used that and wrote and recorded more music for jazz ballet High Yellow for Buddy Bradley and Frederick Ashton (backcloth by Vanessa Bell), went to NYC '33 and fulfilled Decca recording contract by hiring Chu Berry, Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, Red Allen, Wayman Carver, Sid Catlett and others (essentially Carter's band at the time) to record his compositions, 'Firebird', 'Pastoral', 'Arabesque' etc as Spike Hughes and His Negro Orchestra (after '45 changed to 'All American' on record labels); 'Fanfare' was part of the ballet. 'No one in the outfit had the idea that he had so much hell in that valise until we started rehearsing,' Dickie Wells told Stanley Dance '71. 'It was a good thing he had a gang like he had -- these were cats who could see around a corner.' When 'Donegal Cradle Song' was published he transcribed Hawkins's solos for the orchestration; he never played bass again, saying that 'To have returned to Europe and to have tried to take up jazz again would have been folly and an impossibility.' He wrote for the Melody Maker as 'Mike' for 13 years, then for newspapers; he composed operas and wrote several books, on Toscanini, opera, travel etc and two of memoirs. Spike Hughes: All His Jazz Compositions--High Yellow were compiled on a Largo CD, ten tracks each from NYC and London, leaving out four NYC tracks (not his tunes), but makes a uniquely lovely album; Spike Hughes And Benny Carter on Retrieval compiles all the '33 sides; two two-CD sets on King's Cross Music compiled all his London recordings (Decca-Dents, his Dance Orchestra and his Three Blind Mice etc) all excellent transfers by John R. T. Davies.