Recorded in New York City, 1977
1993 INTERMUSIC S.A. JTM8116
Lionel Hampton is known for his inspiring, catalytic qualities as a band leader and as an organizer of remarkable jam-session kind of get-togethers, introducing many great jazz men. The list of artists he performed and recorded with covers a synopsis of jazz history since the thirties.
Hampton is one of the best-known and most-loved figures in jazz; because of his flamboyant personality and flair for showmanship he made jazz popular by a wide audience. Not only an excellent and imaginative vibraphonist, Hampton is a very vital drummer, a humorous singer and a curiosity as a pianist, using only two fingers in the manner of vibraphone mallets. Still Hampton's musical sense is sometimes smothered in over-enthousiastic, triumphant activity. His artistry can best be enjoyed in ballads, when he reveals the more sensitive side of his unusual musicianship.
Lionel Hampton was born in Louisville, Kentucky, probably on the 12th of April, 1913 (although there is some confusion about the year of his birth). He started his career in Chicago as a drummer in various bands until he met Louis Armstrong in 1930. His first recording as a vibraphonist was made with Armstrong on "Memories Of You". Hampton soon started his own band in Los Angeles and recorded with Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa and Teddy Wilson until 1936, when he joined Goodman's trio, making it a quartet. Eventually, in the fourties. he started a big band of his own, which turned out to be one of the longest existing in jazz history.
The vibraphone is still a rarely used instrument in the field of jazz. Red Norvo was the first important player on mallet instruments, starting in1925 on the xylophone, switching to vibes in 1943. The one who made the vibraphone a really famous instrument though, was Lionel Hampton. Encouraged by Louis Armstrong in the early 1930s, he switched from drums (which he had learned from a nun!) to vibes and amplified xylophone with vibrato and sustaining capability. In contrast with Norvo with his delicate and graceful style, Hampton turned out to be a hard-driver on the vibes, applying a wide range of attacks and riffs, generating remarkable swing on an instrument otherwise known for its bland, disembodied sound. It would have been expected that the third important mallet man in jazz, mister Milt Jackson, would have fallen under the influence of Hampton and Norvo, but Jackson, coming of age in the 1940s, became a bop player instead. He is, like Hampton, a very energetic player, but his usage of full, complete lines, often inflected with a heavy vibrato, makes him an unmistakable adept of Charlie Parker and sets him far aside from Hampton's heavy swing style.
Hampton is heard on this CD with a selection of superb jazz artists like Roland Hanna, Gradey Tate, Hank Jones and Earl Hines. Hamptons talents both as a leader and a soloists are displayed equally by this beautiful compilation.
- Famke Damste (All Music Guide)