Lionel Hampton - vibes; Billy Mackel - guitar; Milt Buckner - organ; Joe Newman - trumpet; Eddie Williams - trumpet; Richard Williams - trumpet; Dexter Gordon - tenor sax; Curtis Fuller - trombone; Richard Davis - bass; Bernard Purdie - drums; Dennis Monez - conga; Special guests:; Teddy Wilson - piano; Gene Krupa - drums; Illinois Jacquet - tenor saxophone; Kai Winding - trombone; Cat Anderson - trumpet
A bona fide giant of jazz, vibraphonist Lionel Hampton came out of the '30s Swing Era as a member of Benny Goodman's quartet (featuring pianist Teddy Wilson and drummer Gene Krupa), one of the first integrated groups in jazz to play before wide audiences. After playing with the Goodman small group and orchestra, Hampton left to form his own big band in 1940 and scored a hit in 1942 with "Flying Home," which featured an urgent tenor sax solo by Illinois Jacquet that paved the way for Rhythm & Blues. Hampton continued to entertain audiences with his exuberant showmanship and relentless swing for the next five decades.
By the early '70s, Hampton had begun covering well-known pop tunes like Buddy Miles' "Them Changes," James Taylor's "You Got a Friend," the Doors' "Light My Fire," and Donovan's "Sunshine Superman" in an effort to cross over to the burgeoning hippie market. But in his appearance at the 1972 Newport Jazz Festival, he kicked out the jams with his trademark combination of jump blues and straight-ahead swing.
Hampton and his orchestra (a seasoned group of 10 jazz veterans) open their set with an untitled boogaloo, underscored by the funky rhythm playing of Hamp's long-time guitarist Bill Mackel, who had been with the charismatic bandleader since 1944. Organ pioneer Milt Buckner is next featured on a Latin-flavored romp before the ensemble settles into a relaxed, swinging rendition of the 1930 Tin Pan Alley ditty "On the Sunny Side of the Street." Buckner's syncopated organ work here fuels the proceedings while the bandleader joins in on vocals midway through the piece and the band incorporates Hamp's famous riff from his 1946 hit "Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop" into the fabric of this engaging number. Buckner then stretches out considerably on a spirited reprise of "On the Sunny Side of the Street."
Hampton's glistening vibes open a darkly alluring rendition of a slow, Latin-flavored ballad before the ensemble shifts gears and jumps into a swaggering big band arrangement of "A Taste of Honey," a 1960 Broadway tune which had been covered by the Beatles in 1963 and became a smash hit in 1965 for Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Hamp solos confidently on top of the driving groove laid down by drummer Bernard Purdie, organist Buckner, and bassist Richard Davis. The ambitious horn arrangements that spice up this swinging track are particularly exhilarating. "How High the Moon," a longstanding jamming vehicle since the days of Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts during the '50s, is handled with up-tempo verve by this swinging juggernaut. Hampton stretches out on an especially lengthy solo here, quoting freely along the way from "Buttons and Bows," "Music, Music, Music," "Goodnight Ladies," "Organ Grinder's Swing," and other Tin Pan Alley ditties that pop into his head during his solo.
At this point in the proceedings, Hampton tells the audience, "Don't worry about a thing, Daddy. We're just warming up now." And with that he introduces special guests Teddy Wilson on piano and Gene Krupa on drums, who take the Philharmonic stage for a beautiful rendition of "Avalon" (a tune the three colleagues had recorded together in 1937 with Benny Goodman). The crowd responds favorably to Wilson's ebullient piano solo before Hamp and Krupa engage in some animated exchanges on this Swing era staple. Wilson is prominently featured on the following number, stretching out in exquisite fashion with his dazzling two-handed technique on the keyboard with Krupa supporting with brisk brushwork.
Taking the time to introduce all the band members over a shuffle blues motif, Hampton gives each band member a solo taste as he calls out their names one by one. Included in this extended blues jam is a potent solo by tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon, who blows with typically bold abandon but seems thrown for a loop by the intricately modulated arrangement at the end. And they close their set with an exuberant reading of Hampton's raucous flag-waver, "Flying Home," featuring rousing solos by trombonist Kai Winding and tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet, who had put his stamp on this tune 30 years earlier. The piece closes on a flurry of high-note blasts from longtime Duke Ellington trumpeter, Cat Anderson. Before leaving the stage, Hampton pays tribute to George Wein, whom he calls "the greatest jazz impresario in the world."
Born in Louisville, Kentucky on April 20, 1908, Hampton spent his early childhood in Kenosha, Wisconsin before his family moved to Chicago when he was eight years old. He took xylophone lessons as a teenager and also played drums. After moving to California in 1927, he began playing drums for the Dixieland Blues-Blowers and later joined the Les Hite band at Sebastian's Cotton Club, where he began focusing on vibraphone. In 1930, Louis Armstrong hired the Les Hite band for a recording session and Hampton was featured playing vibes on two songs, becoming the first jazz musician to record on that instrument. He later studied music at the University of Southern California and formed his own orchestra in 1934. In 1936, Hampton was hired by Benny Goodman as the fourth member of his quartet, which had previously been a trio with drummer Gene Krupa and pianist Teddy Wilson. He continued to perform and record with Goodman through 1940, when he formed his own big band, scoring hits with "Flying Home" in 1944 and the proto-rocker "Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop" in 1946. A veritable Who's Who in Jazz passed through the ranks of Hampton's bands through the '50s and '60s, including bassist Charles Mingus, saxophonist Johnny Griffin, guitarist Wes Montgomery, vocalists Dinah Washington and Betty Carter, trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie, Cat Anderson, Kenny Dorham and Snooky Young, trombonist Jimmy Cleveland, and saxophonists Illinois Jacquet and Jerome Richardson.
A relentless road warrior, Hampton continued touring the world with his band through the '70s and '80s, eventually sidelined by a stroke in 1991. He died from congestive heart failure on August 31, 2002 in New York City. (Milkowski)