Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Humphrey Lyttelton

Humphrey Richard Adeane Lyttelton, also known as Humph, was born on 23 May 1921. He was an English jazz musician, broadcaster, author, and radio presenter. He was also one of the great-nephews of the politician and sportsman Alfred Lyttelton, who was the 1st man to represent England at both football and cricket at the international level.

Lyttelton acquired his first trumpet in 1936, when his mother went to a shop and bought him an instrument for around five pounds. He learnt to play by himself, being inspired by the trumpeters Louis Armstrong and Nat Gonella.

After spending a year with the Dixielanders, a band which pioneered New Orleans-style jazz in Britain and which was led by the pianist George Webb, Humphrey Lyttleton formed his own jazz band in 1948, playing the trumpet. The Humphrey Lyttelton Band soon became the leading traditional jazz band in the country, with a high reputation in Europe. It was for Parlophone that Humphrey recorded his own Bad Penny Blues which, in 1956, was the first British jazz record to get into the Top 20. The eight-piece band toured the States in 1959. By 1988, his 40th year as a bandleader, the jazzman had already played more than 10,000 concerts, only to continue for more than fifteen years. He wrote more than 120 original compositions for his band.

However, he always saw to it that he remained active besides his musical life. Indeed, he Bundertook the presentation of a number of jazz programmes on BBC's Radio 2 (The Best of Jazz), and is also well known for presenting the hugely popular Radio 4 comedy show, I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, which he chaired for 30 years.

One of the members of the Dixielanders — the clarinettist and cartoonist Wally Fawkes — became one of his particularly close friends. Lyttelton, who joined the Daily Mail as a cartoonist in 1949, provided story lines and dialogue for his friend’s greatly popular satirical strip, Flook.

His contribution to jazz literature was important too: he wrote seven books. Few musicians have written as vividly about their profession. He was also known as a journalist: his articles appeared regularly in Punch, The Field and the British Airways Highlife magazine.

He died on April 25, 2008, aged 86, leaving behind four children. His band was one of the most versatile in the world, and continues to give concerts celebrating his music and songs.

No comments: