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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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LIONEL HAMPTON

Three Classic Albums Plus

Avid AMSC 993

 

 


CD1
Gene Krupa, Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson
1. Avalon
2. Just You, Just Me
3. Blues for Benny
4. I Got Rhythm
5. Moonglow
6. Airmail Special
The Genius Of Lionel Hampton
7. The Man I Love
8. Body And Soul
Lionel Hampton & his Giants
9. Plaid
10. Somebody Loves Me
11. Deep Purple

CD2
Lionel Hampton & his Giants
1. September Song
2. Verve Blues
The Genius Of Lionel Hampton
3. What Is This Thing Called Love?
1954 Apollo Hall Concert
4. How High the Moon
5. Stardust
6. Lover Man
7. Midnight Sun
8. Love is Here to Stay
9. The Nearness of You
10. Vibe Boogie
11. Flying Home
Lionel Hampton & the Giants session
12. September Song (78 rpm version)
13. What Is This Thing Called Love? (Alternate take)


Dreams do come true. For years I have hoped that, one day, Lionel Hampton's Apollo Hall concert would be released on CD, as my LP of the concert is virtually worn out. That lucky day has arrived with this compilation which contains Apollo Hall and, among other riches, the classic session that Hamp recorded in 1955 with a line-up that included Art Tatum and Harry Edison.

Lionel Hampton has always been one of my favourite musicians - not only for his ability to make almost any number swing but also for his evident pleasure in playing, which is often underlined by grunts and shouts of approval or encouraging his fellow musicians to play just one more chorus. Add to this the way that his solos always seem to suggest the structure of the tune he is playing.

This rather disorderly collection on a double CD starts with recordings which suggest what the Benny Goodman Quartet might have sounded like if Benny had been absent. In fact the group here is a quartet, as Red Callender is brought in on double bass to help the rhythm along. In the original Goodman trio and quartet, the rhythm was handled quite adequately by Gene Krupa's drums, but here Gene's contribution seems to be under-recorded, except when he is playing a solo.

We are reminded of Benny Goodman as the group ends Avalon with the riff that Goodman used on this tune. Teddy Wilson's piano adds touches of elegance to Hampton's more down-to-earth playing. Teddy's solo on Just You, Just Me shows how he used left-hand chords and syncopations to back up (or contrast with) what his right hand was playing. My only complaint is that Hamp was clearly enjoying himself so much that some of his solos tend to go on a bit too long. But his good humour is clear in such things as his quotation from Carry Me Back to Old Virginny in Blues for Benny. Rather confusingly, tracks 7 and 8 are by the same group but they come from an album called The Genius of Lionel Hampton. Hamp's theme statements of these two tunes prove that he could be a sensitive ballad player as well as an invigorating swinger.

The next five tracks come from the LP Lionel Hampton and his Giants - and giants they certainly were. Alongside Hampton there is the unsurpassable piano of Art Tatum and the melodiously economical trumpet of Harry Edison, underpinned by the bass of Red Callender or John Simmons and the responsive drums of Buddy Rich. Guitarist Barney Kessel is added for three tracks. The opening track is Plaid, one of my all-time favourite Hampton recordings, with a catchy melody as well as unstoppable propulsion. Art Tatum displays how he can swing despite all those florid arpeggios for which he was famous (or notorious). This sextet was the largest band that Tatum ever played for - probably because he tended to dominate every group he was in. Certainly it must have been difficult for Lionel Hampton to play something like Deep Purple when Tatum was virtually duplicating the melody behind him. The high-speed What is This Thing Called Love? comes from the same session but a different LP. It includes some admirably integrated drum breaks from Buddy Rich.

Then comes the Apollo Hall concert, recorded at Dusseldorf in November 1954 by Hamp's big band, which boasted such notable musicians as Bobby Plater, Nat Adderley, Buster Cooper and Wallace Davenport. Lionel introduces the concert with a mischievous How High the Moon, backed by a rhythm section in which Hamp's long-time guitarist Billy Mackel is prominent.

The best-known track from the album, Stardust, was actually not recorded at Dusseldorf but in Amsterdam the week before. It is a superb example of Hamp's inventiveness and technical skill on the vibraphone. It is also a typical Hampton performance in continually going into double time, which is accentuated by the steady slow beat maintained by the rhythm section. There is also a lovely saxophone feature in Lover Man and one of Hampton's finest compositions: the gloriously chromatic Midnight Sun. Of course, the concert has to end with Flying Home, Hamp's customary crowd-rousing closer.

This generous compilation ends with two alternate takes from the session with Tatum and Edison: a gentle September Song and a slightly ragged What is This Thing Called Love? All these recordings from the mid-fifties capture Lionel Hampton at the height of his powers, surrounded by marvellous colleagues. This is not only my nomination for Bargain of the Year but also for Album of the Year.

Tony Augarde



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