Live in '58

Ken Dryden By

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Lionel Hampton
Jazz Icons: Live in '58
Naxos Jazz

Lionel Hampton was one of the incomparable showmen in jazz, especially when leading an always-swinging big band. This 1958 concert, filmed by Belgium public television at the Royal Theatre Opera House, finds him in peak form.

Many of the expected hits are missing, so this 58-minute performance likely represents only a small portion of the program, as Hampton regularly played two hours or more before breaking a sweat. The show starts on an unusually slow note, an intimate rendering of film composer Dmitri Tiomkin's "The High and the Mighty" (written for a John Wayne film). His famous "Hamp's Piano Blues" starts with the leader playing a two-finger piano duet with pianist Oscar Denard, though he does work in a few chords and triplets, finishing the piece on the vibes. Guitarist Billy Mackel, a mainstay with Hampton for decades, tears up the crowd with his playing on "I Found a New Baby," while the versatile Hampton plays tom-tom front and center in "Sticks Ahoy."

There are some problems. A number of times the video is obviously out of sync with the audio, possibly due to repairs to the vintage master source. The odd editing includes Hampton's announcing of "'Round Midnight" even though Monk's familiar classic is missing from the show. Occasionally, the camera work is a bit sloppy, belatedly focusing on the soloists, and it seems odd that the audience and the band never appear in the same camera shot, though trumpeter Art Hoyle insists this was not a "studio concert," with audience views edited into the program. But none of these flaws overly detract from this exciting set in the prime of Hampton's career. John McDonough's detailed liner notes and the numerous vintage photographs make this entry in the Jazz Icons series, also available in a boxed set with six other jazz giants and a bonus disc, an essential item for Swing fans.

Tracks: The High and The Mighty; Hamp's Piano Blues; History Of Jazz; Hot Club Blues; I Found A New Baby; The Chase (Part I and II); Brussels Sprouts; Sticks Ahoy; Gladys.

Personnel: Lionel Hampton: vibes, drums, piano; Leon Zachery: alto sax; Andy McGhee: tenor sax; Lonnie Shaw: baritone sax; Bobby Plater: alto sax, clarinet; Louis Blackburn: trombone; Wade Marcus: trombone; Larry Wilson: trombone; Eddie Williams, Art Hoyle, Eddie Mullens: trumpet; Dave Gonzales: trumpet; Oscar Denard: piano; Billy Mackel: electric guitar, vocals; Julius Browne: electric bass; Wilbert Hogan: drums; Cornelius James: vocals.

Production Notes: 57 minutes. Recorded 1958 at Royal Theatre Opera House, Belgium. Extras: Liner Notes by John McDonough; Foreword by Quincy Jones; Cover photo by Red Grandy/Stars and Stripes; Booklet photos by Red Grandy, Susanne Schapowalow, Ray Avery, William "PoPsie" Randolph; Memorabilia collage.

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