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



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LIONEL HAMPTON

Plays Drums, Vibes, Piano
The Legendary 1963-64 Sessions

Lonehill Jazz LHJ 10312

 

 


1. Just One of Those Things
2. Lazy Thoughts
3. The Man I Love
4. One Step from Heaven
5. Darn That Dream
6. Stardust
7. Tracking Problem
8. Lullaby of Birdland
9. Blues for Stephen
10. And the Angels Sing
11. Our Love is Here To Stay
12. I Know That You Know
13. Skylark
14. Day By Day
15. Speak Low
16. My Foolish Heart
17. Poor Butterfly
18. Blue Moon
19. I Can't Get Started
Lionel Hampton - Vibes, piano, drums, xylophone, celeste, vocals
Bobby Plater - Flute, alto sax, tenor sax, clarinet (tracks 1-12)
Oscar Dennard - Piano (tracks 1-12)
Billy Mackel - Guitar (tracks 1-12, 18, 19)
Julius Brown - Bass (tracks 1-12)
Wilbert "G. T." Hogan - Drums (tracks 1-12)
Eddie Bert, Dick Hixson, Sonny Russo, Bobby Byrne - Trombones (tracks 13-17)
Tommy Flanagan - Piano (tracks 13-19)
Skeeter Best - Guitar (tracks 13-17)
George Duvivier - Bass (tracks 13-19)
Osie Johnson - Drums (tracks 13-17)
Elvin Jones - Drums (tracks 18, 19)

Lionel Hampton was versatile, as this album title suggests. In fact he was even more versatile than the title conveys, as he plays xylophone and celeste on the last two tunes, as well as doing some singing. In their commendable habit of squeezing as many tracks as possible onto a CD, Lonehill Records gives us the complete Lionel...Plays Drums, Vibes, Piano album from 1957 as well as seven tracks from the Silver Vibes session recorded in 1960.

The first 12 tracks put Lionel with a small group that included some of the regulars from his big band - notably multi-instrumentalist Bobby Plater and Lionel's long-time guitar colleague Billy Mackel. Plater demonstrates his versatility on four different instruments, and it is good to hear some solos from Mackel, who was seldom featured so prominently with the big band. But the main spotlight is on Lionel Hampton, who sometimes sounds so casual as to be careless. The opening Just One of Those Things includes several wrong notes on vibes but Hamp doesn't seem to care - and he still swings as infectiously as he always has. Lionel's ability to swing was one of his main assets, as was the fact that he seemed to keep the shape of a tune in his head, so that listeners can always hear a tune's structure behind one of his solos.

And what solos he could play! Stardust often appeared in his repertoire, and the version here is different from all the others he played - taken at a very leisurely tempo, which naturally Lionel doubles up. Of course, Hamp's solo contains the familiar quotations (for example, from Pretty Baby) but there are also plenty of unexpected twists. Tracking Problem and I Know That You Know illustrate his dexterity on drums, while Blues for Stephen exhibits his two-fingered approach to the piano alongside his predilection for quoting other tunes (here including Chicago and the Wedding March). And the Angels Sing has a nonchalant Hampton vocal.

Tracks 13 to 17 feature a trombone quartet backing Lionel's rhapsodic vibes in predominantly slow ballads. It would be nice to know who wrote the sensitive arrangements. The two final tracks put Hamp with a smaller group and give us the opportunity to hear him playing the xylophone and celeste, two instruments he is not noted for, although he plays both of them without any difficulty.

As someone who snaps up every Lionel Hampton recording eagerly, I wouldn't say this was one of his very best albums, but it is full of the sort of varied, carefree, swinging jazz that Lionel seemed to produce naturally.

Tony Augarde

 



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