A few years ago a “new swing revival” burst onto the music scene, bolstered by newcomers like the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and the Royal Crown Revue, among others. Suddenly techno clubs featured swing nights, as albums by these artists appeared at the top of the charts. Although the new swing craze has passed as we all knew it would, one positive fallout was that many older stalwarts, like Louis Prima and Louis Jordan, received posthumous exposure as a result.
Another swing artist deserving of wider exposure is Slide Hampton, who has recently been given the reissue treatment by Collectables Records with a two-fer CD overflowing with enthusiasm and swing. Hampton, a gifted trombonist and arranger who previously spent time with both Lionel Hampton and Maynard Ferguson, keeps things lively on both sessions with punchy horn arrangements and lively tempos that make the relatively small orchestra of ten sound like twenty. All of the selections here are real toe-tappers, propelled with a ferocious snap by Vinnie Ruggiero on drums and either Ray Barretto or Willie Bobo on congas. The addition of congas adds an additional “junglish” sound to every track, in particular the Hampton original “The Barbarians”. All soloists are in fine form throughout, especially Hampton and Jay Cameron; only a few soloists are permitted on each track, which leaves room for everyone to stretch out for a few choruses. Those in the know will recognize veteran players like George Coleman and Horace Parlan among the mix. As far as the sessions themselves are concerned, Jazz With a Twist is a relatively straightforward set, whereas Explosion! is a bit more adventurous, including country and western tunes, Arabian stylings on “Delilah”, and an upbeat arrangement of “Bye Bye Love” among the more traditional tunes. Although still a good session, the eclectic nature of the tunes on the latter recording detracts from the overall enjoyment. However, the seven originals included on both prove that Hampton can compose tunes that can stand alongside any big band chart currently in circulation.
While not likely to launch another swing revival, this CD is a welcome reissue to an artist deserving of more attention. The last swing craze was fueled by the sheer joy and enthusiasm that good big band music can inspire; Hampton’s recordings are no exception. If Brian Setzer ever needs some inspiration, he would be wise to check out these recordings.
Track Listing: The Jazz Twist, Mack the Knife, Gorgeous George, Strollin', The Barbarians, Work Song, Slide Slid, Day In Day Out, Red Top, Revival, Maria, Delilah, Begin the Beguine, Your Cheatin' Heart, Spanish Flier, Bye Bye Love, Love Letters, Slide's Blues.
Personnel: on "Jazz With a Twist":Slide Hampton and Benny Jacobs-El, trombones; Willy Thomas and Hobrt Johnson, trumpets; George Coleman, tenor sax; Jay Cameron, baritone sax; Horace Parlan, piano; Eddie Khan, bass; Ray Barreto, congas; Vinnie Ruggiero, drums. On "Explosion!" Slide Hampton and Benjamin Jacobs-El, trombones; John Bello, Chad Ferreti, and Jerry Tyree, trumpets; Joe Farrell, tenor sax; Jay Cameron, baritone sax; Horace Parlan, piano; Bob Cranshaw, bass; Vinnie Ruggiero, drums; Willie Bobo, congas.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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