Just back from the jazz and news starved shores of Bouvet to find Humph
dead. Bestrode the British scene like a colossus. He was always there. As
musician, broadcaster and critic, always part of my jazz life. Surreptitious
listening to the always late, late night BBC jazz programmes on a trannie
under the bed covers. My first ever jazz gig, 1962 or 63, a Humph at a
desolate and near deserted London suburban cinema. The 'mainstream' band,
hopelessly uncommercial in the dog days of the trad boom. At its peak, 'The
Best Of Jazz' radio programme was just that, seamless excellence from a wide
spectrum of our music, catholic, never mean. Always kept the best band
available, subsidised, I imagine, by his more popular alta egos. Explored
the music, never sitting back comfy in re-creation.
Also a very fine critic although sadly not enough. Indeed ' The Best Of
Jazz' essential. A fine writer, as also the autobiographical works attest.
Strange to read the fine obit in the Guardian by the pre-deceased Melly
whose good-time attitude to the music might, at first glance, seem the
antithesis of Humph.
I have lots in my collection from the very earliest sides but I turned to my
very last Humph for a testament. The 1992 session with Acker Bilk which
shows him at his finest, in a relaxed environment, playing timeless and
eclectic jazz based on the tradition.
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