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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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Lionel Hampton V0L.2

Air Mail Special

Original 1937-1946 Recordings

NAXOS JAZZ LEGENDS 8.120651

 

 

 

  1. Hampton Stomp
  2. My Last Affair
  3. Drum Stomp (Crazy Rhythm)
  4. Shoe Shiner’s Drag
  5. The Jumpin’ Jive (Jim Jam Jump)
  6. When Lights are Low
  7. Four or Five Times
  8. Central Avenue Breakdown
  9. Jack the Bellboy
  10. Blue Because of You
  11. A Ghost of a Chance
  12. Martin on Every Block
  13. Pig Foot Sonata
  14. Altitude
  15. Bouncing at the Beacon
  16. Chasin’ with Chase
  17. Three-Quarter Boogie
  18. Hamp’s Boogie Woogie
  19. Beulah’s Boogie
  20. Air Mail Special

Lionel Hampton defined the way the Vibraphone should be played in jazz, since that time the style has been modified by others, but none has outshone Hamp on his chosen instrument.

During the period covered by this record, he was given licence by Victor Records, to record as he pleased, with jazz musicians who happened to be in LA at the time. There was of course the usual pressure for commercial success, so a few of the tracks have vocals, but even those tracks contain some superb playing from the many stars Hamp selected for these recording sessions. An example of this is some fine baritone sax from Harry Carney from the Ellington Band on Jumpin’ Jive.

Track 6 is a real all star affair with Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Chu Berry and Charlie Christian all involved. The following track has some fine tenor sax from Ben Webster as well as some fine vibes work from the leader.

Tracks 8 and 9 pair Hamp with Nat King Cole in a quartet where he sometimes plays piano and sometimes drums, he was of course a fine drummer and pianist as well as being master of the vibes.

On tracks 10 & 11 the size of the band is reduced to just three with Cole on piano, Oscar Moore on guitar and Hamp on vibes, or so the sleeve note says, but I can hear a bass player! As the track was recorded in 1947, it is more than possible that the personnel records were not that accurate. I particularly like the track that has this combo playing Ghost of a Chance, it has always been a nice tune. It also has a female vocalist who is not identified. Billie Holliday? Or does someone reading this know better!

Tracks 12 & 13 are Hampton originals and the band swings its way nicely through them, I particularly liked the piano work of Marlowe Morris.

Tracks 14 & 15 have Marshall Royal on clarinet and alto and Sir Charles Thompson on piano. There is also a nice contribution from Irving Ashby on guitar. The same group, with the addition of trumpeter Karl George, continues to be featured on tracks 16 & 17 and the violin playing of Ray Perrin should be mentioned although he is not heavily feature.

The last three tracks feature the Lionel Hampton Big Band, one of the longest running big bands in jazz and they are typical Hampton fare, always swinging and presented with great style, lots of riffs and displaying some superb instrumental talent Air Mail Special always stole the show and it does so here!

To any one not familiar with the work of Lionel Hampton, this CD will give them a chance to catch up. I am familiar with Lionel Hampton’s work and I enjoyed this music from one of the real greats of jazz.

Don Mather



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