One of the most remarkable aspects of Live at Carnegie Hall, which celebrates the legendary vibraphonist Lionel Hampton’s 50th anniversary in music, is that the concert was held in 1978 — more than two decades ago — and Hamp, now 91, is still going strong! Yes, he has lost a step or two, and must be helped onstage, but once he’s positioned behind the vibes the years seem to melt away, chased into some nether region by his infectious enthusiasm and love for Jazz. Hamp is abetted on this reissue, which first saw the light of day on Buddah Records in 1981, by an all–star band several of whose members — trumpeters Cat Anderson, Joe Newman and Doc Cheatham; tenor Arnett Cobb, baritone Pepper Adams, alto Earle Warren and pianist Teddy Wilson — are no longer with us (and whose absence upraises its historic significance). Together they wend their way through a dynamic program of familiar Hampton signatures — “Hamp’s Boogie Woogie,” “Avalon,” “Hamp’s the Champ,” “Stompin’ at the Savoy” and the ever–present “Flyin’ Home” — and other songs he’s probably played a thousand times or more including “Sunny Side of the Street,” “Tea for Two,” “I’m Confessin’,” “More Than You Know” and “Runnin’ Wild.” While Hamp stays mainly with the vibes, that’s probably him at the piano on “Hamp’s Boogie Woogie” — and speaking of pianists, Wilson is typically buoyant and debonair on his guest number, “Tea for Two.” Cobb’s piquant Texas–style tenor sets the mood for Hamp’s vocal on “I’m Confessin’,” after which Lionel offers a concise vibraphone clinic on the Errol Garner/Johnny Burke ballad, “Misty,” proving for the umpteenth time that his musicianship far exceeds his deserved reputation as a picturesque and crowd–pleasing performer. Clarinetist Bob Wilber is solidly in the groove, as are Hamp and pianist Ray Bryant, on the Benny Goodman favorite, “Avalon,” and Wilber brightens the ballad “More Than You Know” before he, Hamp and the rhythm section place a blazing exclamation mark on “Runnin’ Wild” (on which Hamp’s mallets move faster than many people can probably think). The recording has a reverberant “concert hall” sound, which, given its derivation, is quite plausible. Everyone is in good form, the timing (76:54) is extremely generous, and even though more than two decades have passed, the concert is well worth hearing and savoring again.
Track listing: Sunny Side of the Street; Hamp’s the Champ; Stompin’ at the Savoy; Flyin’ Home; Hamp’s Boogie Woogie; Tea for Two; I’m Confessin’; Misty; Avalon; More Than You Know; Runnin’ Wild (76:54).
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