Lionel Hampton: Jazz Legend

Jim Santella BY

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Lionel Hampton
Lionel Hampton: Jazz Legend
King of the Vibes
Hudson Music

Unlike some musical biographies, this one places the music above the commentary. Vibraphonist Mike Mainieri and drummer Steve Smith share a narration that discusses the career of Lionel Hampton, and they allow plenty of room for the music to tell its side of the story. Hampton is seen here in many film clips all over the world, leading bands both small and large while soloing up front at the drum set and on the vibraphone.

The camera captures his showmanship well, while the microphone captures his superb percussion technique. Energy simply explodes from his being every time he walks on stage. Hampton juggles his drumsticks, dances around, battles with other drummers, and still gives the music his best. The early bands swing hard and his later bands carry the tradition in a program that glides gracefully through swing, bebop, rock & roll, and modern jazz.

With a collection of film clips from many sources, we see the legendary artist grow from a performance with Louis Armstrong in the 1930s to his Golden Men of Jazz in the 1990s. Most of the footage features black & white action of Lionel Hampton & His Orchestra through the 1950s. Some of the film clips have been edited, but the music remains intact. While several of these black & white videos appear grainy, it's always the real thing. Hampton's presence ensures a hot time everywhere he travels, and the sound is excellent throughout.

Several clips feature Benny Goodman and his smaller ensembles. An interesting clip from the film Mr. Rock & Roll features Hampton singing. Elsewhere, he enters into an extended drum set battle with Louis Bellson and Don Lamond that sizzles. An appearance with Woody Herman in Japan and an appearance with Clark Terry at the Playboy Jazz Festival in Los Angeles provide fond memories.

Recommended, Lionel Hampton: Jazz Legend features great music along with a detailed portrayal of the man as a connection between many other jazz legends of our time.

Tracks: Flying Home; Air Mail Special; I'm a Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas; Slide, Hamp, Slide; Vibe Boogie; Hamp's Idea; Midnight Sun; Mr. Rock & Roll; How Do You Do; others.

Personnel: Lionel Hampton: drums, vibraphone. vocal; Louis Armstrong: trumpet, Benny Goodman: clarinet; Gene Krupa: drums; Teddy Wilson: piano; Harry James: trumpet; Shelly Manne: drums; Jack Lesberg: bass; Betty Carter: vocal; Milt Buckner: piano; Louis Bellson: drums; Don Lamond: drums; Woody Herman: clarinet: Clark Terry: trumpet, flugelhorn, vocal; Duffy Jackson: drums; Al Grey: trombone; Benny Golson: tenor saxophone; others.

Program Notes: Approximate running time 66 minutes.

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