Daniel Humair

Blending power, elegance, and thoughtfulness, Swiss drummer Daniel Humair has worked with the best American and European jazz musicians. He quickly became a staple among European drummers, first in a bop style, then adopting the sophistication of West Coast drummers such as Shelly Manne and later absorbing Elvin Jones’ influence. Despite an early but less than encouraging introduction to music, Humair only got interested in this art form when he reached 14 and heard a recording by Tommy Ladnier and Mezz Mezzrow. Working tremendously hard to make up for the lost time, he rapidly became a professional musician and started to perform in ballrooms. In 1958, he won several awards at the Zurich Jazz Festival. This recognition led to his first European tours with Don Byas, Guy Lafitte, Jacques Pelzer, and Floris Nico Bunink. In November 1958, he moved from Belgium to Paris at the invitation of Barney Wilen. There, he worked with Lucky Thompson, Oscar Pettiford, Bud Powell, and vibist Michel Hausser, with whom he made his first recordings. Subsequently, he joined Martial Solal’s trio and stayed with the pianist until 1965. This significant collaboration helped him develop his sound and improve his arranging skills. During that time, he also worked as a sideman with a lot of American musicians passing through Paris and collaborated with two of the most important French jazz musicians of the era: pianist René Urtreger and bassist Pierre Michelot. In the mid-’60s, he formed a unique trio with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty and organist Eddy Louiss. In 1968, his career took a critical turn with the beginning of his four-year tenure with Phil Woods & His European Rhythm Machine. Following this experience, he played in a trio with pianist Gordon Beck and bassist Ron Matthewson. During the ’70s, he most notably appeared with various editions of the Michel Portal Unit. At the end of the ’70s, he created another trio with saxophonist François Jeanneau and bassist Henri Texier. The combo helped give a new direction to the French jazz scene by developing a local repertoire still rooted in the jazz tradition but taking its distance from the American model. In 1985, another important step in the drummer’s evolution was his association with Joachim Kühn and Jean-François Jenny-Clark. The trio remained active until the untimely passing of Jenny-Clark and helped him mature as a composer. In the ’90s, he decided to focus on his activities as a painter, which started to influence his drumming, helping him to work on textures and better define the relationship between the drums and the other instruments. This did not prevent him from remaining present on the jazz scene. Under the moniker Reunion, he invited various soloists to perform with him. Other highlights include his participation in an all-star quartet with Enrico Rava, Miroslav Vitous, and Franco d’Andrea, and the creation of a trio with Bruno Chevillon and Marc Ducret. In 2001, he launched Baby Boom, a project involving much younger musicians. Bio by by Alain Drouot, (Allmusic)

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