Daniel Humair was born in Geneva, Switzerland on May 23, 1938. Humair played clarinet and drums from the age of seven and won a competition for jazz playing in his teens.
Paris has traditionally provided a Mecca for exiled jazz musicians - by the time he was 20 Humair was accompanying these visiting heroes from the drums. Most celebrated was a season with tenor saxophonist Lucky Thompson at a club called Le Chat Qui Pèche. Humair became the drummer American musicians would ask to work with (despite a gig with the Swingle Singers in the early 60s).
In 1967 he played on violinist Jean-Luc Ponty's debut Sunday Walk (also contributing the title track). When alto saxophonist Phil Woods emigrated to Paris in 1968 it was natural that Humair should be the drummer in what Woods called the European Rhythm Machine.
In 1969 he won the Downbeat critics' poll as Talent Deserving Wider Recognition. Humair was so in demand that his job-sheet for the 70s reads like a list of the pre-eminent names in jazz- Herbie Mann , Roy Eldridge , Stéphane Grappelli and Anthony Braxton all availed themselves of his graceful, incisive drums. He played with Gato Barbieri on the soundtrack to Last Tango In Paris in 1972.
Welcome on Soul Note in 1986, a record which listed all members of the quartet as leaders, was a perfect demonstration of his warmth and responsiveness as a drummer. Cited by Nat Hentoff as a European 'who long ago destroyed the notion that European drummers can't swing' and also active as a painter, Humair continued to top drum polls in France into the 90s.
In 1991 Surrounded documented a selection of his work from 1964-87, including tracks with legends such as Eric Dolphy, Gerry Mulligan and Johnny Griffin - a neat way of giving Humair centre-stage and celebrating the breadth of his involvement with jazz history.