I went to church on Tuesday, 23 November, St James’ in Emsworth to hear trumpeter Chris Hodgkins give thanks to the life and music to another trumpeter, Humphry Lyttelton. The event was presented by WemsFest, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company, and was part of a seventeen-date tour supported by public funding from Arts Council England with help from PizzaExpressLive. National Jazz Archive, the Jazz Centre UK, Jazz London Radio, and Ina Dittke and Associates.
The line-up for this evening was as follows: Chris Hodgkins – trumpet; Dave Bower – trumpet; Charlotte Glasson – sax, clarinet & penny whistles, Diane McLoughlin – sax, Mark Bassey – trombone; Alison Rayner – double bass; Buster Birch – drums; Alex Clarke – sax & clarinet; and, all the way from the USA Jinjoo Yoo – piano, Wayne Wilkinson – guitar.
The music comprised of “Humph” tunes, arrangements of “Humph” tunes and original compositions celebrating the man lovingly referred to as “Humph”. ‘Cross A Busy Street’, with Alex Clarke on clarinet, got the evening underway and with each member of the band getting a short solo spot it was a great tune on which to start what would turn out to be a very good gig. The Harry Smith tune ‘Tribal Dance’ came next and drummer Buster Birch played some wonderful drum patterns that left the audience in doubt that the tune title was an apt one.
The first of the original compositions, arranged by trombonist Mark Bassey, was ‘Renaissance Man’. The tune featured a terrific guitar solo from Wayne Wilkinson (an unfamiliar name to me but I am enjoying his CD Yours Yours Yours, which I purchased during the interval) and Charlotte Glasson playing two penny whistles at the same time and producing the most wonderful bright, fun sound. Freddy Grant’s ‘Fat Tuesday’ was a very lively, upbeat number in the calypso style that probably helped warm up the atmosphere in what was a cold venue.
The Humph tune ‘Mezzrow’, as arranged by Charlotte Glasson, followed and might be my standout tune of the evening. The New Orleans sound was spot on and the two clarinets, along with the soprano sax of Diane McLoughlin, were an absolute joy to listen to and the number was very well received by the audience. ‘Bad Penny Blues’ simply had to be played on an evening that was all about Humphrey Lyttelton and the band did not disappoint. As nostalgia trips go this tune made the evening complete even though we still had plenty of good music left to come.
Jinjoo Yoo arranged ‘Cath Meets Humph’ and the tune opened with the arranger’s piano before the full fat sound of the front line kicked in, and with the acoustics of the church coming in to play that sound was gorgeous. Diane McLoughlin’s alto lines were superb, but it was the insouciant style of Mark Bassey’s trombone that gave this number the relaxed feel that I very much enjoyed. ‘Cecil Beaton Strides Again’ is another original work this time arranged by Alex Clarke.
After a brief but enjoyable chat with Alison Rayner and Buster Birch, and an informative discussion with the lady selling the CDs on offer in front of the well put together display of a potted history of Humphrey Lyttelton, it was back to my pew for the second set, which began with two Humph originals. The first was ‘In Swinger’ with its beautiful contrasting tones of tenor (Alex Clarke) and baritone sax (Charlotte Glasson). Unfortunately, I did not catch the title of the second number, but it had a lovely repeating piano/clarinet phrase, a very good bass and piano section and, for me, brilliant trumpet playing from Dave Bower who also featured prominently in ‘Late Night Final’ with excellent support from the rhythm section. I also enjoyed the warm tones from Charlotte Glasson’s baritone sax.
Henry Lowther arranged the following two numbers – both relating to Humph’s time playing alongside Buck Clayton – the first of which was ‘Wrestlers Tricks’. The two trumpets took the lead and, as with the saxes in an earlier tune, the contrast between the two instruments was fascinating to hear – David being the slightly brighter in tone of the two. The three saxes were fantastic and with Jinjoo Yoo providing the counterpoint on piano there was plenty going on to keep the audience full engaged. ‘One For Buck’ had the drums, bass, and guitar take the lead before five of the front line came in setting up Chris Hodgkins for some very good trumpet work making full use of the microphone and plunger mute, and some of the gentlest blowing I have heard live: what a joy to witness.
‘Susan’ was written by Chris Hodgkins and features Dave Bower on trumpet and as in earlier numbers Dave shone with his superb playing that filled the church with its clear tone. The tune ‘Let’s Get Out’ brought the evening to a close with the excellent rhythm section taking the lead. As with the evening’s opening number each member of this wonderful band had an opportunity to solo, but it was when the musicians came together as a unified force was the beauty of Humphrey Lyttelton’s writing and playing style put front and centre for all to admire.
This was a very enjoyable evening of music played by a band that did the music justice. Chris Hodgkins did a stellar performance as MC with his Humphesque delivery of stories, anecdotes, and references to “Mrs Trellis” that was much appreciated by the audience that filled St James’ Church in Emsworth. As for me, after publishing this review I shall start looking for more music from Jinjin Yoo, Dave Bower and Charlotte Glasson as well as revisit the music I already own of the other members of the band who made this leg of the ‘A Salute to Humphrey Lyttelton’ such a success.