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Humphrey Lyttelton

From Academic Kids

Humphrey Lyttelton (b. May 23, 1921) is a well-known British jazz musician and chairman of the radio programme I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, and the cousin of Viscount Cobham, the 8th Baron Lyttelton.

Lyttelton attended Sunningdale Preparatory School and then Eton College, where his father was a housemaster (and, indeed, where he had been born). At Eton he developed his love for jazz, forming a quartet there in 1936, which included future journalist Ludovic Kennedy on drums, after teaching himself the trumpet. After leaving school, he served in the Grenadier Guards. Following demob after World War II, he attended Camberwell Art College for two years.

In 1949, he joined the Daily Mail as a cartoonist, where he remained until 1956.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s Lyttelton was prominent in the British revival of traditional jazz forms, from New Orleans, recording with Sidney Bechet in 1949, necessitating the break of Musician Union restrictive practices which forbed working with jazz musicians from the USA. In 1956, he had his only hit, Bad Penny Blues, which was in the UK charts for 6 weeks. As the trad movement (not quite the same thing as revivalism) developed, Lyttelton moved to a mainstream approach favoured by American musicians such as trumpeter Buck Clayton; they recorded together in the early 1960s. By now his repetory had expanded, not only including lesser known Ellington pieces, but even "The Champ" from Dizzy Gillespie's band book. The Lyttelton band - he sees himself primarily as a leader - has helped develop the careers of many now prominent British musicians, including Tony Coe and Alan Barnes.

Lyttelton has presented The Best of Jazz on BBC Radio 2 since 1967.

In 1972, he was chosen to host the free-form comedy show I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue on BBC Radio 4, a role he still performs.

In 2001, Lyttelton and his band added trad jazz elements to a free-form, experimental Radiohead song "Life In A Glass House" on the Amnesiac album.

As well as his other activities, Lyttelton is a keen calligrapher, as President of The Society for Italic Handwriting. He named his record label, Calligraph, which was founded in the early 1980s, after his extra-curricular interest. Not only has the label been used for issuing his own new albums, and those of associates, but his recordings for the Parlophone label in the 1950s have been reissued on CD via the imprint.

Books

  • Humphrey Lyttelton: The Best of Jazz (Robson Books: London, 1998) (423pp.; ISBN 1861051875)

External links

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