Sandy Brown Jazz

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On A Night Like This, The Story Is Told ...

Humphrey Lyttelton - Continental Drift



Humphrey Lyttelton


Trumpeter and bandleader Humphrey Lyttelton's second book, Second Chorus, was published in 1958 and it gives an interesting picture of the reception jazz received at the time. I am sure Humph would have known far more about German audiences and that the scene he describes here changed a lot as his career went on ....

'........ French jazz concerts are unpredictable affairs. If one is going to play for a Parisian audience, one must be prepared for anything. The people will not arrive until at least half an hour after the scheduled start. Many of them will arrive with rattles and toy trumpets with which to make their own contribution to the fun. The show will be punctuated with hoarse shouts, eldritch screeches and an occasional explosion from different parts of the hall. If you're lucky, you will witness an epic passage of arms between the followers of M. Panassié and those of M. Delaunay. If your music fails to please, it will be drowned in angry and derisive howls. If it pleases, it will be drowned in prolonged cheering throughout. You will not get to bed before five .......'


Bruce Turner

'I am no authority on German audiences, having only played before them once, in Hamburg. Everything seemed calm and orderly then - we shared the bill with Big Bill Broonzy and Lil Armstrong - but only a week or two before they had risen and bombarded the stage with chairs because Louis Armstrong finished a concert early. It wasn't Louis's fault. With four thousand people waiting outside for the second show, the authorities insisted on the first house being curtailed. We overrran by half an hour. The most exacting job I have ever undertaken was an all-night carnival in Munich. We flew over just for one night. At the airport we were met in broad daylight by a crowd in fancy dress. It looked like an alfresco Chelsea Arts Ball. They presented us each with a foaming stein of ale, and then drove us into town in a procession of the oldest and smallest motor-cars I have ever seen. They were all painted bright red and plastered with posters for the evening's ball. The festivities began at eight-thirty. We were told that we should be playing on a revolving stage, alternating with another band at half-hour intervals. In a sort of crow's nest above the stage sat an elderly German stage-hand, whose function was to press a button and revolve the stage every half-hour. He did this with punctilious zeal, regardless of whether there was anyone ready on the reverse side or not. For the first three revolutions, the band was in place. For the next three, half the band was ready, the other half scrambled on as the stage revolved. Finally, as dawn broke, the stage turned to reveal nobody except Bruce Turner, who, through fatigue and a surfeit of cream cakes, had sunk into a state resembling catalepsy.

Bruce Turner
Photograph courtesy of the National Jazz Archive


That night we played at half-hour intervals from eight-thirty until five-thirty, with scarcely time between sets to fight our way to the men's room and back. Then we had breakfast of beer and Bratwürst in a nearby beer-garden and caught the eight o'clock plane home. Bruce Turner stayed behind for a short holiday ......'

From Second Chorus by Humphrey Lyttelton.


Here's a video of Humphrey Lyttelton's band with Humph, Bruce Turner and Johnny Barnes all playing clarinet on Sidney Bechet's Ce Messieu Qui Parle (the title should be Ce Monsieur Qui Parle - This Gentleman Who Is Speaking).





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