‘AS GOOD AS IT GOT’
CD Review of:
AS GOOD AS IT GETS!
THE ORIGINAL JAZZ
(2008 – Smith & Co SCCD 1142)
|The Lyttelton band with Jimmy Rushing|
Born in ‘a small house in the Eton High Street’ on 23 May 1921, an ex-Eton public schoolboy, Humphrey Richard Adeane Lyttelton scorned the establishment expectations such credentials might suggest by bunking off from an Eton-Harrow match to buy his first trumpet in Charing Cross Road, compounding the tendency by attending Camberwell Art College, growing a hipster beard, and becoming a focal point in the post-war traditional jazz wave. His forthright playing first attracted serious attention as part of the pioneering George Webb’s Dixielanders, their line-up modelled on King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. By the time Humph joined – in 1947, they’d already reached widening audiences through live radio broadcasts.
When Webb broke up the band Humph assumed control of its remnants, remodelling it into his own first band during January 1948, gathering other future-bastions of UK trad – including Webb himself, clarinettist and cartoonist Wally ‘Trog’ Fawkes in 1951 – announced by the track “Humph Meets Trog”, and later, Kid Ory-influenced brothers Keith and Ian Christie on trombone and clarinet. Just as Cyril Davies and Alexis Korner would do for blues, he – and the likes of Ken Colyer, faithfully attempted to replicate the sound of carefully hoarded and shared American 78rpm recordings. And the double-CD set ‘As Good As It Gets: The Original Jazz Recordings 1948 - 1956’ (2008) shows the band drawing on archive material from Kid Ory (“Get Out Of Here And Go Home”), WC Handy (“Ole Miss Rag” and “Careless Love”), and King Oliver (“Working Man Blues”), and yes – there’s a quaintness about them that requires a great deal of historical perspective to appreciate.
Lyttleton’s horizons broadened through the 1950’s, modernising further, grasping more mainstream zones with both hands, much to the dismay of trad purists – ‘musicians interest me more than formats’ he told ‘Melody Maker’, drawing in the influence of Buck Clayton – who later guested on one of Humph’s most accomplished albums ‘Me And Buck’ in 1963, and earning respect by taking his band to the States in 1959. For Humph, what was happening was ‘just time. Time for the fans to find out what was going on under their noses. Time for musicians to mature. Time for jazzmen to establish their own identity and not base their playing on their American counterparts.’
‘ROCK ‘N’ REEL Vol.2 No.11
(Sept/Oct)’ (UK – August 2008)