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In 1946 Colin Pomroy and George Davies established the Tempo Record Society which started to import jazz records from the US. After a slow couple of years to 1948 they began to record and issue their own material using UK and visiting musicians. Pomroy and Davies split in 1949, Davies continuing to use the Tempo name continuing to record British trad musicians and to issue, under licence, American releases including Good Time Jazz. Business was not good and the label was eventually acquired by Decca in 1954.

From 1955 Decca started to issue records again on the Tempo label, for the first time recording British modern jazz musicians as well as the traditional bands Tony Hall generally taking charge of the Tempo modern jazz recordings. He was an ex public schoolboy who had been on the London jazz scene since the late 1940s when he took over as host at the Feldman Club. He had a similar function at Studio 51 and Jazz at the Flamingo and also hosted BBC Jazz club in the early 1950s. He was also a jazz columnist and a booker for Jeff Kruger so he was pretty well known to the musicians. He worked for Decca Records from 1954 to 1967 and Tempo issues were made from 1955 to 1961 when sales collapsed and the label was discontinued.

Tony Hall was 27 in 1955 and managed to persuade the powers that be at Decca and Vogue to let him record this new music. He has said that:
"every session was a struggle with the engineers. They didn't understand jazz and they didn't really want to do jazz dates. You had to fight to get the sound right then you would have to fight with the musicians who would be clamouring for their sound to be bought up, before you could achieve cohesion and order to get a sensible attitude. The average session length was three to four hours usually in the afternoon or evening. The Decca engineers could not get the tight Van Gelder sound, they just couldn't get the balance right. I couldn't specify the engineer I wanted. It was a case of who was left over at the time. Bert Steffens did a lot of the Tempo stuff, but he didn't feel the music, you had to keep the beer flowing for him.
The Tempo records weren't promoted or marketed and they weren't selling. I just wanted to get the guys recorded before the end came which it did in 1961 when everything was falling apart and the label just died. The jazz scene was changing, the clubs closed the crowds had gone and the avant garde thing was starting..."


In 1961 it was decided that the Tempo label fulfilled no function that the Vogue label itself could not handle and Tempo ceased to be. Tempo, had done in the second half of the 1950s, what Esquire had done in the early part of the 1950s. They were responsible for preserving for posterity the British modern jazz sounds of the time. Without their efforts we would have very litttle of the marvellous music from this period available to listen to today.

Speaking to Jazz Journal in 2008 Tony Hall had comments on the musicians he worked with on these Tempo dates.

Speaking of the Jazz Couriers record dates: "Tubby was the senior partner and he took total charge and was extremely well organised. They were quite different characters. Ronnie, given half a chance, would go off to the book-makers. Tubby did most of the writing and arranging, and he expanded into playing vibes, baritone and flute. Tubby was in good shape in those days and was always very business like in the studio."

"None of the leaders I used on the Tempo dates were easygoing they weren't content to play safe - Dizzy Reece could be difficult and headstrong. He could be a bit abrasive. He was a hard taskmaster and not all the other musicians took to him that kindly. It could be a tense situation. Joe Harriott was never one of my favourites - I found him very difficult and he had a big chip on his shoulder - but I got along with him reasonably well. I wasn't enamoured of his playing and much preferred Derek Humble. I did try to get Joe and Dizzy together for a date but it never happened. They had a fight at at their rehearsal - two totally incompatible spirits - a clash of egos..."

"Bogey Gaynair was so easy to work with. His second record was nothing to do with Tempo and was made when Tempo had virtually packed up and was not release until many years later on the Candid label. He was a much different character to Joe or Dizzy..."

"I wish I had recorded Derk Humble more, I wish I had given him a solo album. He was an interesting stylistic mixture of Konitz and Pepper, but he had something of his own and he possessed that hard swing. I also wish I had used Harry South more because he was such a wonderful arranger. He was a slow pianist his finges didn't seem to move very fast but what he played was always very pertinent..."

"Victor Feldman was very professional with the obvious respect of all the Tempo gang. Everybody really enjoyed those dates especially Victor's big band..."

"Jimmy Deuchar was a wonderful musician, excellent composer, arranger and soloist. Difficult? Of course but a very good musician..."

Virtually everything that was recorded for Tempo was released, but the sad thing is the tapes have all disappeared. All the Jasmine CDs were dubbed from Jasmine vinyl that in turn had been dubbed from Tempo EPs and LPs so nobody has heard how the original masters should sound. If the tapes could be found modern techniques would have done wonders with them.

Details of Tempo modern jazz records...


This page was last updated during January, 2009.
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