Obituaries of Humph are flying thick and fast on the blogosphere-of-a-certain-age: no reason why I shouldn’t add to them. It would be easy of me to concentrate on his comedy career, as—do feel free to berate me as some sort of genre-bashing oaf—any jazz which I don’t find boring, I find annoying.
The sardonic, leisurely timing of his inevitable deliveries on I’m Sorry, I Haven’t A Clue was simultaneously part of the antidote to panel games and an extra layer of intentionally faded music-hall grandeur, entirely in keeping with the programme. He was always alert to the power of the pregnant pause, using them in a way that most radio presenters wouldn’t dare to.
As I say it’s difficult to talk about his music directly in any meaningful way. But he’s one of the only band leaders that could and did get me to sit through an entire jazz gig. Only three years ago—at 83 years old—he led a strong, tight band at that year’s Carbonbury festival, and entertaining everyone in the way that only a gentleman such as Humph could manage.
I only hope that Humph, Sergent Ronga and Alan Coren have now all made up; even now, Ronga is probably giving ‘im a look. Ave atque vale to them all.