Jazz Icons Series 3: Lionel Hampton Live in '58

C. Michael Bailey By

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Lionel Hampton

Jazz Icons Series 3: Lionel Hampton Live in '58

Jazz Icons


Jazz ambassadors are hard to come by. The first was Louis Armstrong, whose personality was so big and warm it couldn't help spilling out on everyone close to him. Then there was Dizzy Gillespie, the uber- virtuoso whose grasp of vaudeville and the ideal of the total entertainer made him the logical heir to Armstrong. But chronologically between these two men was multi-instrumentalist, composer, and bandleader Lionel Hampton. Hampton shared with Armstrong and Gillespie a gigantic personage and talent, tempered with a common knowledge of what is necessary to move an audience. What later jazz musicians would dismiss as cheap showmanship was the proper manifestation of the extrovert's temperament all three had, and this dismissal was at the expense of dismissers.

Lionel Hampton's (1908-2002) life and career spanned every major movement in jazz from New Orleans to post bop. Hampton made an effort to play in all of these periods while steadfastly remaining a stalwart Swing Era fixture. Jazz Icons Series 3: Lionel Hampton Live in '58 finds Hampton midway through his lengthy career. This Belgian concert is the earliest of the Series 3 of the Jazz Icon DVD releases, being captured early in 1958. Quincy Jones states in the forward to the liner notes that ;Hampton was the king of entertainers. He was like a circus master in the center of the ring with lions jumping trough burning hoops and acrobats balancing on wild horses. That pretty well describes this European performance.

A Lionel Hampton performance is exactly that. Hampton's far-reaching musicianship could easily fill an entire performance, and often did. Here we find him as vibraphonist/bandleader leading a crack ensemble through red-hot swing arrangements. Hampton could sling his mallets with the best of them, and he used their percussive power to drive his big band through pieces like "The High and The Mighty" and his highly entertaining "The History of Jazz." The band leader's between-piece banter is very popular with his Belgian crowd, who eat him up with a spoon. The highlight is Hampton's floor tom solo on "Sticks Ahoy."

Hampton also proved to be a harder working man in show business that even James Brown. A typical performance found the percussionist sweating profusely from his extremely physical approach to his craft. Lionel Hampton took his entertaining seriously. I understood that it was his job to provide a show for his audience, and he and his band amply demonstrate their mission on Lionel Hampton Live in '58.

Tracks: Belgium 1958: The High and The Mighty; Hamp's Piano Blues; The History of Jazz; Hot Club Blues; I Found a New Baby; Brussels Sprouts; Gladys.

Personnel: Belgium 1958: Lionel Hampton: vibes, drums, piano, bandleader; Leon Zachary and Bobby Plater: alto saxophone; Andy McGee: tenor saxophone; Louid Blackburn, Wade marcus, Larry Wilson: trombone; Eddie williams, Art Hoyle, Eddie Mullens, Dave Gonzales; trumpet; Oscar Denard: piano; Billy Mackel: guitar, vocals; Julius Brown: bass; Wilbert Hogan: drums; Cornelius James: vocals.

Production Notes: B and W. Running time: 99 minutes. Belgium 1958: Lionel Hampton At The Opera RTBF, February 17, 1958. Twenty-four page booklet, Forward by Quincy Jones. Liner notes by John McDonough. Rare photographs and memorabilia collage.

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