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Lionel Hampton

Lionel Hampton was the first jazz vibraphonist and was one of the jazz giants beginning in the mid-'30s. He has achieved the difficult feat of being musically open-minded (even recording "Giant Steps") without changing his basic swing style. Hamp started out as a drummer, playing with the Chicago Defender Newsboys' Band as a youth. His original idol was Jimmy Bertrand, a '20s drummer who occasionally played xylophone. Hampton played on the West Coast with such groups as Curtis Mosby's Blue Blowers, Reb Spikes, and Paul Howard's Quality Serenaders (with whom he made his recording debut in 1929) before joining Les Hite's band, which for a period accompanied Louis Armstrong. At a recording session in 1930, a vibraphone happened to be in the studio, and Armstrong asked Hampton (who had practiced on one previously) if he could play a little bit behind him and on "Memories of You" and "Shine"; Hamp became the first jazz improviser to record on vibes.

It would be another six years before he found fame. Lionel Hampton, after leaving Hite, had his own band in Los Angeles' Paradise Cafe, until one night in 1936 when Benny Goodman came into the club and discovered him. Soon, Hampton recorded with B.G., Teddy Wilson, and Gene Krupa as the Benny Goodman Quartet, and six weeks later he officially joined Goodman. An exciting soloist whose enthusiasm even caused B.G. to smile, Hampton became one of the stars of his organization, appearing in films with Goodman, at the famous 1938 Carnegie Hall concert, and nightly on the radio. In 1937, he started recording regularly as a leader for Victor with specially assembled all-star groups that formed a who's who of swing; all of these timeless performances (1937-1941) were reissued by Bluebird on a six-LP set, although in piecemeal fashion on CD.

Hampton stayed with Goodman until 1940, sometimes substituting on drums and taking vocals. In 1940, Lionel Hampton formed his first big band, and in 1942 had a huge hit with "Flying Home," featuring a classic Illinois Jacquet tenor spot (one of the first R&B solos). During the remainder of the decade, Hampton's extroverted orchestra was a big favorite, leaning toward R&B, showing the influence of bebop after 1944, and sometimes getting pretty exhibitionistic. Among his sidemen, in addition to Jacquet, were Arnett Cobb, Dinah Washington (who Hampton helped discover), Cat Anderson, Marshall Royal, Dexter Gordon, Milt Buckner, Earl Bostic, Snooky Young, Johnny Griffin, Joe Wilder, Benny Bailey, Charles Mingus, Fats Navarro, Al Gray, and even Wes Montgomery and Betty Carter. Hampton's popularity allowed him to continue leading big bands off and on into the mid-'90s, and the 1953 edition that visited Paris (with Clifford Brown, Art Farmer, Quincy Jones, Jimmy Cleveland, Gigi Gryce, George Wallington, and Annie Ross) would be difficult to top, although fights over money and the right of the sideman to record led to its breakup. Hampton appeared and recorded with many all-star groups in the 1950s including reunions with Benny Goodman, meetings with the Oscar Peterson Trio, Stan Getz, Buddy DeFranco, and as part of a trio with Art Tatum and Buddy Rich. He also was featured in The Benny Goodman Story (1956).

Since the 1950s, Lionel Hampton has mostly repeated past triumphs, always playing "Hamp's Boogie Woogie" (which features his very rapid two-finger piano playing), "Hey Ba-Ba-Re-Bop," and "Flying Home." However, his enthusiasm still causes excitement and he remains a household name. Hampton has recorded through the years for nearly every label, including two of his own (Glad Hamp and Who's Who). Despite strokes and the ravages of age, Lionel Hampton remained a vital force into the 1990s. In January 2001, a vibraphone he had played for 15 years was put into the National Museum of American History. On August 31, 2002, at age 94, Lionel Hampton suffered major heart failure and passed away. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

rogerlynghol m
One of my fondest memories is listening to Lionel and group while sitting on the grass of the 12th fairway on a cool summers eve at the base of Mt. Hood.
Jazz man....
Don't forget he was the major influence of Yash and Stan Schmenge!
I think the best way to hear the full range of Hamp's musical abilities is with a small group playing ballads. (Of course, that may be true of most musicians, in which case, it's a pretty banal comment. Forget I said it)
twilightlove 9 9
Don't read this because it actually works. You will get kissed on the nearest Friday by the LOVE of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you do not post this comment to at least 3 songs you will die in 2 days, now you've started reading this so don't stop. This is so scary put this in at least 5 songs in at least143 minutes when if done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in big letters this is scary cuz it actually works
invdad1
In my view Lionel Hampton was the greatest jazz rhythm and multi-talent e d musician of all time.
I am sooooooo glad that Pandora keeps these guys alive, performing and availible. What a precious legacy of talent we have that this country doesn't even know or care about. For those of us that do, isn't it forever sweet? The longer you live the more you know that others don't. DMB
Ah, here's a connection: Sylvia Bennett's big break came in the 1980s, when legendary vibraphonist and National Arts Award Winner, Lionel Hampton took Sylvia under his wing and made her the first female singer to record with him in thirty years. But I still don't think that's her singing in 1945.
Umm the wrong bio is up. Who cares about Sylvia Bennet on a Lionel Hampton page?
Norton Started out on Xylophone and didnt switch to vibes 'till later
marti153
First jazz vibist? What about Red Norvo?
lionel hampton wasn't born in italy. What's going on Pandora?
daytonville
PANDORA: Please fix your bios.
Under "cool" is his picture.
chuck.skoog
kick butt
saw him at a charity show on long island in the early 90*s.crowd was dead untill he came on and blew the place apart at 85
chatmar1
Saw him one new year's eve in Paris at the Meridien hotel. I was dating my now wife then and we had quite the evening. A very special man and a very special memory.
They are missing one thing from his Bio. The school of music at the University of Idaho has a building named after him. He hosted a jazz festival every year at the college up until he passed away. Unfortunatel y I never was able to afford tickets, but I loved watching the performances re-broadcast . Lionel brought tons of energy into his performances , even at 75 years old.
For those of you who never saw him play Live, you missed a Helluva Show! I believe I saw him at least 3 times. The most memorable was at the Saratoga Perfoming Arts Center in the Early `80's as part of the Newport jazz Festival. I believe that he came back for at least 3 Encores!
The ultimate jazz musician. HE PLAYED FROM THE HEART AND SOUL!!!!
mlkwahowske
I saw Lionel play with Gene Harris in the mid-1980's at a winery near Boise, Idaho. What an amazing show. Lionel even went back on the drums and Gene's drummer came up to play vibes. Everyone was having a great time.
Lionel was too cool, not to leave a comment. jam on

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