Lionel Hampton is a towering figure in the world of jazz. He was one of the first people to play the vibraphone and make that instrument popular, he played in one of the first racially integrated bands in the world, and the list of people he played and recorded with reads like a who’s who of jazz: Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Wes Montgomery, Art Tatum, Stan Getz and on and on. It’s also his birthday today so I thought we’d fire up some of his best.
Hampton started as a drummer but stated fooling around with the vibraphone only about 10 years after it was invented. Armstrong heard him and asked him to play the instrument on a couple recordings in 1930, and the rest, as they way, was history.
In 1936 Hamp sat in with the Benny Goodman Trio, which soon became the Benny Goodman Quartet along with Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa, and that band was one of the first to perform in public with both black and white members. It’s hard to imagine today what a big deal that was, but back then it was huge. Goodman took a big chance but it really paid off. Here’s a recording of that band from 1937, called “I Got A Hearful Of Music”:
Hamp led his own big band and small combos from the early-’40s until the ’80s. One of his earliest hits is still one of his most famous, a song called “Flying Home” which he wrote with Goodman. Here’s a version from 1942 that features Illinois Jacquet on tenor:
Last but not least, here’s a powerhouse recording of the old Hoagy Charmichael tune “Stardust” performed by an all-star band of Lionel Hampton on vibraphone, Charlie Shavers on trumpet, Willie Smith on alto sax, Corky Corcoran on tenorsSax, Barney Kessel on guitar, Tommy Todd on piano, Slam Stewart on bass and Hum and Lee Young on drums.
Jason Parker is a Seattle-based jazz trumpet player, educator and writer. His band, The Jason Parker Quartet, was hailed by Earshot Jazz as “the next generation of Seattle jazz.” Find out more about Jason and his music at jasonparkermusic.com.