LIonel Hampton, the first musician to establish the vibraphone as a viable component of Jazz instrumentation, was (with Red Norvo) one of its acknowledged monarchs when these air–check performances were recorded in 1944–45, mostly for the benefit of U.S. servicemen at home and abroad. Hamp was a product of the Swing Era and his bands always swung, powered in this case by such capable sidemen as trumpeters Snooky Young and Cat Anderson, Texas tenor Arnett Cobb, trombonist Booty Wood, pianist Milt Buckner and the maestro himself on vibes or drums (a fire–breathing chorus or three on “Lady Be Good”). There are half a dozen vocals by a young Dinah Washington whose basic style was already fully developed with only modest refinements added later in her career. The heavyweights among them are Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” and Harold Arlen / Johnny Mercer’s “Accentuate the Positive.” Each of the seven programs chronicled on the album includes introductions (and banter) by announcers whose conversation is leavened with such requisite ’40s catch–phrases as “groovy,” “solid” and “swell.” Hamp and the orchestra let out all the stops on the well–known “Lady Be Good” and “Air Mail Special” and lesser–known “Overtime” and “In the Bag,” with Ellington’s “Rockin’ in Rhythm” and the leader’s signature, “Flying Home (Number Two)” and “K Ration Hop” taken at upbeat but comparatively measured tempos. For those who love to jump, jive and wail, or simply appreciate those who do and are able to overlook the second–rate sound on these recordings, there’s much to admire in this generously timed snapshot of a muscular swing orchestra in full flight.
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