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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Lake LACD 282

[54:06 + 56:42]



    CD 1
  1. Take The 'A' Train
  2. When It's Sleepy Time Down South
  3. Swingtime In The Rockies
  4. I Can't Get Started
  5. Southern Sunset
  6. For Dancers Only
  7. Stompin' At The Savoy
  8. Midnight Sun
  9. Alligator Crawl
  10. Blue And Sentimental
  11. Marie
  12. Nightmare
  13. Singin' The Blues
  14. Stompy Jones
  15. Manhunt
  16. Summertime
    CD 2
  1. Finger Snapper
  2. It's All Up With I
  3. Swallowing The Blues
  4. One Day I Met An African
  5. Only For Men
  6. South Winds
  7. Sweet And Sour
  8. Holy Main
  9. Any Kind Of Blues
  10. Kilroy Was Gone
  11. The House That Humph Built
  12. Lean Baby
  13. Rain
  14. Big Bill Blues
  15. Weary Blues

Humphrey Lyttelton and his band


Lake's year-by-year approach takes us to 1959. Lyttelton's now mainstream band featured John Picard, Tony Coe, Jimmy Skidmore and Joe Temperley in the front line and a steady rhythm section anchored by pianist Ian Armit. The resultant recordings - there are thirty one in this two-for-the-price-of-one double set - attest to the splendid qualities of instrumentalists and arrangers, not least too of tune selection.

One thing that always strikes me as if for the first time is that the front line always sounded bigger than it was. I shouldn't be surprised as it's a constant feature, but the cleverness of the patterns of writing, the backing figures, and the ensemble sound, which is rooted deep in Temperley's sepulchral lyricism, generate a verticality of sound that is inspiring. It is itself rooted naturally in small group writing of the kind that Humph and his arrangers so admired, though its particular application in the context of Humph's band is no less masterly. It helped of course that his soloists were no mere ciphers and had strong ideas of their own. Picard's shouting trombone dominates Swingtime In The Rockies and Skidmore proves eloquent in I Can't Get Started. As both these features show, Humph was keen to subvert the obvious and giving a trumpet solo to a tenor player, as in Skidmore's case, was all grist to the unexpected mill. For some of these numbers a big band was called in, one that bristled with cosmopolitan modernists such as Bert Courtley and Bobby Pratt in the trumpet section, and Ronnie Ross in the saxes. Old band member Keith Christie was also on board for these tracks.

There is certainly a taste of 'New Wine, Old Bottles' in the case of the Waller-Razaf song Alligator Crawl in which the crisp mainstream lines bristling with the brassy four man trumpet section and a light boogie ethos, bring a new kind of perspective to bear. Then again Humph wasn't averse to a dose of evocative tension, as his appropriation of Artie Shaw's Nightmare shows. Its taut, terse throb is heightened by drummer Eddie Taylor's cymbal crashes and Lyttelton's muted soliloquy. In the first disc two of the big band pieces were never issued. Singin' The Blues is nearly all Humph. His solo is so-so. Stompy Jones is the better performance but it too has lain dormant. These published tracks derive from an album called Humph Dedicates, a tribute album in effect.

Disc two is from Triple Exposure, because we have three arrangers; Harry South, Kenny Graham and Lyttelton himself. Finger Snapper is an Ellingtonian-bathed opus, a richly swinging and justly admired track, penned by South. Ian Armit gets down with some Jimmy Yancey piano in Humph's It's All Up With I whilst Coe can be heard promulgating the virtues of Johnny Hodges in Swallowing the Blues. Kenny Graham's One Day I Met An African has entered the lexicon by now but Humph himself sings from the Ellington song sheet in a Jungle-based Sweet and Sour. His command of the Blues and indeed increasing mastery of the use of the mute can be gauged by his playing in the baldly titled Any Kind of Blues. Graham's fondness for Caribbean rhythms, and for unfettered swing are on show for all to hear. How curious that of the four unissued tracks Humph's own Rain remained unissued; it's a bustling swinger.

I think all this argues for the elevated status of these tracks, products of splendid arrangements and interpreted by a band of highly accomplished mainstreamers at the top of their game. Paul Adams has clearly had some work to do in the studio to deal with some of the more eccentric qualities of the original recordings, but he has succeeded admirably.

Jonathan Woolf

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