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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby




Crotchet

Lionel HAMPTON

Flying Home


LIVING ERA CD AJS 268 [CD1: 76.22+77.33]

 



CD1
Flying home [3.09]
Memories of you [3.10]
Stompin’ at the Savoy [2.48]
Moonglow [3.21]
Runnin’ wild [2.37]
Jivin’ the vibes [2.19]
Buzzin’ around with the bee [3.04]
Stompology [2.58]
On the sunny side of the street [3.11]
Rhythm, rhythm [2.49]
China stomp [2.45]
I know that you know [2.55]
Avalon [2.44]
The man I love [3.26]
Drum stomp [3.06]
After you’ve gone [3.00]
Ring dem bells [3.20]
Don’t be that way [2.30]
The blues in your flat [5.55]
I’m in the mood for swing [2.44]
Shoe shiner’s drag [3.20]
Muskrat ramble [3.15]
Down home jump [3.13]
It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing [3.12]
CD2
Sweethearts on parade [2.58]
Shufflin’ at the Hollywood [3.03]
Wizzin’ the wiz [2.23]
The jumpin’ jive [3.12]
Twelfth Street rag [3.06]
When lights are low [2.11]
One sweet letter from you [3.17]
Hot mallets [2.12]
I can’t get started [2.52]
Gin for Christmas [2.29]
Dinah [2.42]
Central Avenue breakdown [3.02]
Jack the bellboy [2.49]
Hamp’s boogie woogie [3.14]
Hey! Ba-ba-re-bop [3.18]
Air mail special [5.58]
Cobb’s idea [3.08]
How high the moon [3.15]
Three minutes on 52nd Street [5.23]
Stardust [3.11]
Red top [3.04]
Mingus fingers [3.12]
Midnight sun [3.17]
Rag mop [2.50]
rec 1930-1949

 

Lionel Hampton (1908-2002) was one of the most extraordinarily versatile jazz musicians of the 20th century, pianist, drummer, vocalist and (from 1930) most famously of all, vibraphonist. While in high school, Les Hite gave Lionel a job in a teenage band, then, just 15, after he had graduated from high school, he left for Los Angeles to join Reb Spikes’ Sharps and Flats. He also played with Paul Howard’s Quality Serenaders and a new band organised by Hite, which backed Louis Armstrong at the Cotton Club. In 1930, Hampton was called in to a recording session with Armstrong, and during a break found a vibraphone and started to play and this ended up as the hit song ‘Memories of you’, reputedly the first time Hampton played the vibraphone; whatever the truth of the matter he had now introduced a new voice to jazz and became its undisputed master.

When Benny Goodman heard him play, he immediately asked Hampton to join him, Gene Krupa on drums and Teddy Wilson on piano in classic recordings such as ‘Dinah’ (cd2 track 11), ‘Moonglow’ (cd1 track 4), and two not featured here, ‘My Last Affair,’ and ‘Exactly Like You.’ Hampton’s inclusion also marked the breaking of the colour barrier; for the Benny Goodman Quartet was the first racially integrated group of jazz musicians ‘I’m selling music, not prejudice’, said the bandleader.

As a bandleader (his wife Gladys was responsible for raising the money for Lionel to start his own band), he established the Lionel Hampton Orchestra that became known around the world for its tremendous energy, dazzling showmanship and first-class jazz musicianship, and ‘Sunny Side of the Street’, his signature tune ‘Flying Home’ (the title of this set and its first track), and ‘Hamp's Boogie-Woogie’ all became best-sellers. The Lionel Hampton Orchestra had a phenomenal line-up, and the list of those appearing with him on this disc makes mouth-watering reading. It seems almost invidious to single out any of them, but besides Armstrong and Goodman, there’s the likes of Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa, Cootie Williams, Johnny Hodges, Cozy Cole, Ziggy Elman, Harry James, Benny Carter, Harry Carney, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Nat King Cole (on piano), Cat Anderson, and Charlie Mingus.


As a statesman, Hampton was asked by Eisenhower to serve as a goodwill ambassador for the United States, and his band made many tours to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Far East, generating a huge international following. President George Bush Sr. appointed him to the Board of the Kennedy Center, while President Clinton awarded him the National Medal of the Arts. He died in 2002 at the age of 94.

ASV have produced an excellent compilation superbly transferred, with not a dull moment from start to finish. There is a staggering display of artistry spread around the 48 tracks on the two discs, 2½ hours of highly enjoyable playing starting with classic Goodman himself (cd1 track 5: 1’20") and his break in ‘Runnin’ wild’ followed by the one for Hampton 20" later. The sheer pleasure derived from these players and the evident fun they were clearly having is no better illustrated than the foot-tapping ‘Buzzin’ around with the bee’ and its delicious question posed by Hampton as vocalist, "What do you say, boys, if we swing this bee?" On vibes there are numerous examples of his virtuosity (the Gershwin adaptation of ‘I got rhythm’ (cd1 track 10: 2’20"), ‘I’m in the mood for swing’, ‘When lights are low (cd2 track 6: 1’10"), ‘Airmail special’, and a finely subtle duet between him and Milt Buckner on piano in ‘How high the moon’. As a drummer Hampton is at his most brilliant in his break during ‘Central Avenue breakdown’, though ‘Drum stomp’ (cd1 track 15: 1’50") is hard to beat. As far as the other musicians are concerned, listen out for Jess Stacy’s piano break in ‘Chinese stomp’ (a tour de force), the immortal Cozy Cole on drums in ‘I know that you know’ (cd1 track 12: 1’45"), and Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet in ‘Hot mallets’ (cd2 track 8: 00’34"). Other brilliant moments include ‘Avalon’, Hampton’s scat singing in ‘Ring dem bells’ (cd1 track 17: 1’00"), his awesome piano playing in ‘Stompin’ at the Savoy’ (cd2 track 3: 1’00"), and the best of all, ‘I’m in the mood for swing’.

Did I say ‘best of all’? No, that has to be the incredible 5’22" which ends ‘Stardust’ (track 19 on cd2 - the booklet has transposed the descriptions of tracks 19 and 20). Hampton’s almost sheep-like nervous bleating on occasion as his concentration and virtuosity become ever more incredible in this classic, and the atmosphere of this live-recording (the only one on the discs, and from Pasadena on 4 August 1947) will take your breath away. All aficionados of Lionel Hampton will know of this legendary classic, but for those who have never heard it, the experience of a lifetime awaits.

Christopher Fifield

 



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