Lionel Hampton - vibes; Teddy Wilson - piano; Milt Hinton - bass; Buddy Rich - drums
For this special engagement at the 1974 Newport Jazz Festival in New York, vibraphonist and showman Lionel Hampton is reunited with his former Benny Goodman Quartet bandmate, pianist Teddy Wilson, and is joined by the stellar rhythm tandem of stalwart bassist Milt Hinton and legendary drummer Buddy Rich. Together they forge an indelibly tight chemistry on the Carnegie Hall stage as they trot out some Swing era chestnuts to the delight of the July 2nd crowd.
The four jazz veterans come out swinging in effervescent fashion on an up-tempo rendition of "Avalon," a tune that Hampton and Wilson had played together in the Goodman band back in 1937. The spry vibraphonist, who was 65 at the time of this performance, is on his game here, turning in a dazzling solo before yielding the stage to Wilson, who delivers a typically wonderful solo himself. Rich underscores the tune with his briskly swinging brushwork then simmers beneath Hinton's bass solo before breaking loose with a solo flurry on the kit that elicits shouts from this Carnegie crowd. They continue with the gorgeous ballad "Moonglow," another staple from the '30s associated with the Benny Goodman Orchestra. Hampton's cascading vibes work sets a delicate tone for this beguiling number (and catch his quote from "I Cover the Waterfront" along the way). Wilson also offers a masterful example of tasty old school piano playing in his sparkling solo.
Switching gears from the sublime to the torrid, they launch into a jumping version of Duke Ellington's "C Jam Blues" that Hampton kicks off with a boogie-woogie refrain on the vibes. Rich switches to sticks for this up-tempo burner and pushes the quartet to some ecstatic heights. Wilson turns in a swinging two-fisted piano solo that is as stunning in its virtuosity as Art Tatum, and the audience responds with enthusiastic cheers. Hampton's conversational call-and-response breakdown with Rich midway through is a highlight of this spirited jam. They continue with a soothing rendition of Eubie Blake's lovely "Memories of You," a tune originally composed for the Broadway show Blackbirds of 1930and later recorded by the Goodman orchestra. Wilson's elegant piano playing, full of tasty filigrees, is highlighted on this engaging number.
Hamp, the inveterate jammer, next jumps into a rousing rendition of "Take the A Train," which he dedicates to "the late, great Duke Ellington" (who passed away on May 24 of that year). And though Hampton attributes the composition to Duke (it was actually written by Ellington's longtime right-hand man, Billy Strayhorn), the sentiment is conveyed in no uncertain terms to this Carnegie crowd. Hampton next calls on pianist Wilson (whom Hampton describes as "the man who has genius in his hands") for a jaunty, stride influenced rendition o "Body and Soul," underscored by Rich's playful brushwork and Hinton's unerring bass pulse. From there the quartet leaps into a lively rendition of "Back Home in Indiana," a Tin Pan Alley tune that was first recorded in 1917 by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. (In the 1940s, bebop pioneer Charlie Parker would later lay his own original lines over these chord changes and call it "Donna Lee"). Rich fuels this up-tempo jam as only he can, switching from brushes to sticks for a rousing finish, with Hampton wailing on top with his typical youthful enthusiasm.
Things then settle into a mellow vibe on the hauntingly beautiful ballad, "The Man I Love," a minor key lament associated with Billie Holiday (catch Hamp's quote from "Rhapsody in Blue" at the tag). Switching gears once again, they jump into Hampton's rousing theme song, "Flying Home," a tune he recorded with the Benny Goodman Sextet in 1939 and continued to play throughout his long and illustrious career. Rich turns in a show-stopping drum solo on this spirited romp. They follow that energetic jam with a mellow rendition of "Stomping at the Savoy," a Swing era staple associate with both the Benny Goodman Orchestra and the Chick Webb Orchestra (rival aggregations who competed in a celebrated Battle of the Bands at the Savoy Ballroom in 1937). Rich's brushwork here is swinging wildly syncopated, fueling this buoyant jam.
Another boogie-woogie refrain from Hampton's vibes sets up a vigorous reading of "When the Saints Go Marching In," which is capped off with an explosive Rich drum solo that elicits shouts from the audience. Hampton wraps it up with a bit of humor, telling the audience, "When we leave here we're going over to Buddy's Place on 64th Street and 2nd Avenue to play 'til 5 o'clock tomorrow morning. George Wein gave us each $5,000 to play here, and we're going over to Buddy's Place to play for nothin'." No doubt, many in this Carnegie crowd followed them over to catch them jamming 'til the wee hours.
A beloved figure in jazz, Hampton continued to play well into his 80s. In 1996, at age 88, he received the prestigious National Medal of Arts presented to him by President Bill Clinton. 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" (recorded first in 1942 with tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet and then again in 1944 with Texas tenor man Arnett Cobb). His 1946 jump blues hit "Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop" was a kind of precursor to rock 'n' roll. 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)