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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf


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Flying Home: His 48 Finest

Retrospective by Nimbus RTS 4189



1. Flying Home
2. Memories Of You
3. Stompin' At The Savoy
4. Moonglow
5. Runnin' Wild
6. Jivin' The Vibes
7. Buzzin' Around with the Bee
8. Stompology
9. On the Sunny Side of the Street
10. Rhythm, Rhythm
11. China Stomp
12. I Know That You Know
13. Avalon
14. The Man I Love
15. Drum Stomp
16. After You've Gone
17. Ring Dem Bells
18. Don't Be That Way
19. The Blues In Your Flat . . . The Blues In My Flat
20. I'm In The Mood For Swing
21. Shoe Shiner's Drag
22. Muskrat Ramble
23. Down Home Jump
24. It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing

1. Sweethearts On Parade
2. Shufflin' at the Hollywood
3. Wizzin' The Wizz
4. The Jumpin' Jive
5. Twelfth Street Rag
6. When Lights Are Low
7. One Sweet Letter From You
8. Hot Mallets
9. I Can't Get Started
10. Gin For Christmas
11. Dinah
12. Central Avenue Breakdown
13. Jack The Bellboy
14. Hamp's Boogie Woogie
15. Hey, Ba-Ba-Re-Bop!
16. Air Mail Special
17. Cobb's Idea
18. How High The Moon
19. Three Minutes on 52nd Street
20. Stardust (End)
21. Red Top
22. Mingus Fingers
23. Midnight Sun
24. Rag Mop


Lionel Hampton adopted various roles during his career: the man who played the vibes for the first time on a Louis Armstrong recording; the vibes player who hotted up the Benny Goodman Quartet; the organiser of some marvellous pick-up groups in the late thirties and early forties; the leader of a big band; and the participant in many excellent sessions organised by Norman Granz. Lionel sang and played the piano and drums as well as the vibes, although it was this last instrument on which he was most significantly a pioneer: turning it from a device for decorative punctuation into a swinging jazz instrument.

This double disc illustrates several of these personae although, as the collection only goes up to 1949, it misses out some of his most memorable later recordings. The album starts with Flying Home, the tune which Hamp used as a rousing crowd-pleaser, especially at the end of concerts. This 1942 version is the classic recording on which Illinois Jacquet moulded a definitive tenor sax solo. It exemplifies one of Lionel's most important qualities: he could swing in virtually any company. Here and throughout the album you can hear how he used syncopation and riffs to add the pulse which defines swing. And, having started as a drummer, he played the vibes and piano thinking of them primarily as percussion instruments, which increased the drive he put into every performance.

We then jump back in time to Memories of You, the 1930 record with Louis Armstrong on which, according to legend, Hamp tried out a vibraphone which was sitting in the corner of the studio. Then we jump forward to Hamp's recordings as part of the Benny Goodman Quartet, including one of the first records he made with them: Moonglow from August 1936. Hampton really became famous playing for Goodman, and he helped to ensure that the quartet was a fiery ensemble which could also play with delicacy. It was the perfect line-up, with Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson's elegance matched against Hamp and Gene Krupa's exuberance.

I am sorry that this compilation doesn't include such exciting Goodman Quartet performances as I Got Rhythm or Dizzy Spells from the famous Carnegie Hall concert of 1938. In fact there are no tracks from that momentous occasion. However, Running Wild exhibits Hampton's skill at high speeds. Many of the following tracks come from those brilliant sessions which Hamp led in the late thirties. They included such notable jazzmen as Ziggy Elman, Jess Stacy, Cootie Williams, Johnny Hodges, Gene Krupa, Benny Carter, Chu Berry and even an up-and-coming young trumpeter named Dizzy Gillespie.

These recordings assembled some remarkable line-ups in informal sessions which were noted for tight ensembles and excellent solos. From the recordings I would pick out for special attention Jiving the Vibes (which proves that Hampton could be relaxed as well as frenetic), On the Sunny Side of the Street (with a gorgeous theme statement by Johnny Hodges), China Stomp (which is actually Chinatown, My Chinatown with Hamp tearing it up in his unique two-fingered piano style), Sweethearts on Parade (with a shuffling vocal by Lionel), When Lights Are Low (a beautiful interpretation of one of Benny Carter's catchiest compositions), and Hot Mallets (with Dizzy Gillespie showing potential in 1939). Two other striking tracks - Central Avenue Breakdown and Jack the Bellboy - resulted from Hamp teaming up with the Nat "King" Cole Trio. The former is a classic piece with Hampton playing the piano like a set of vibes; the latter shows Lionel's brilliance as a drummer as well as Nat Cole's ditto as a pianist.

Lionel formed his own big band in 1940, and most of the remaining items in this collection are big-band excursions. At various times the band contained such famous musicians as Earl Bostic, Arnett Cobb, Johnny Griffin, Milt Buckner and Charlie Mingus. The band was noted for its energy and (often) crowd-pleasing, and its style was a kind of precursor of rhythm-and-blues (typified by Rag Mop). Among its most significant recordings were Mingus Fingers and Midnight Sun. Personally I prefer the small-group sessions, such as the one with the Just Jazz All Stars in 1947 which produced a classic version of Stardust, a tune to which Hampton often returned and which gave him the opportunity for many fascinating flights of fancy. His humorous nature is shown by the way that, when he hits a wrong note in Stardust, he gurgles with delight. It is a pity that only the last three minutes of this performance are included here. Incidentally, the numbering of the tracks around this point is confused, as Stardust is track 19 on my hi-fi, not 20.

Lionel Hampton's recorded output was so varied and it included so many high spots that a double CD is hardly enough to depict his entire achievement. But this compilation is a useful introduction to a musician who seemed to have jazz in his bones.

Tony Augarde

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