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.