During one of his many tours of Europe, Lionel Hampton assembled a group of all-stars for this 1956 studio session, adding a number of top European players to his regular group. The vibraphonist has the lion's share of solos, dominating the 11-plus-minute interpretation of "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing" and showing off a bit with his unique style of playing piano on several selections, including a romp through "Regina's Drag" (which is the same as "12th Street Rag"). "New Saint-Louis Blues" is just an updated version of W.C. Handy's signature tune, with a vocal by Hampton and sassy muted trumpet by Ed Mullens. This date might have been a bit more memorable with more solo features for the vibraphonist's sidemen, but it is hard to overpower one of the greatest jazz showmen of all time.
Lionel Hampton's two-day session for Blue Star in 1976 was a very productive date; he only brought along two regulars, guitarist Billy Mackel and pianist/organist Reynold Mullins, but was joined by an assortment of outstanding European players, including pianist Raymond Fol, alto saxophonist Michel Attenoux (who had worked with Hampton before), trombonist Claude Gousset, tenor saxophonist Gerard Badini, bassist Michel Gaudry, and former Ellington drummer Sam Woodyard, who was living and working in Paris. Hampton was only 68 years old at the time of the recording and still had the reputation for wearing out men a third of his age on the bandstand; his enthusiasm is infectious from the opening number, "Ring Dem Bells," as he introduces each soloist in turn in a lively jam…
Vibraphonist Lionel Hampton and pianist Oscar Peterson are the stars of this delightful collection of jazz recordings supervised by producer Norman Granz over an almost exactly 12-month period extending from 1953 to 1954. Granz's marvelous knack for bringing together excellent musicians resulted in the combined presence of trumpeters Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie, trombonist Bill Harris, clarinetist Buddy DeFranco, tenor saxophonists Ben Webster and Flip Phillips, guitarist Herb Ellis, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Buddy Rich. The combination of musical minds is extraordinary, and Hamp's amazing wavelength is dependably positive and uplifting.
Here is the 12th volume in the complete chronological recordings of Lionel Hampton as reissued by the Classics label. It opens with Hamp's final five recordings for the MGM label, waxed in Los Angeles on October 17, 1951. This was a 20-piece big band using charts written by Quincy Jones, and the music it made feels much different from what's to be heard in the next leg of Lionel Hampton's odyssey, a Norman Granz-produced quartet session with Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown and Buddy Rich, recorded in New York on September 2, 1953. While the big band sides are exciting and fun, with a hip vocal by Sonny Parker on "Don't Flee the Scene Salty" and a singalong routine led by Hamp on "Oh Rock," the quartet swings cohesively, stretching out for six, seven or nearly eleven minutes, for the LP era had begun and Norman Granz encouraged extended improvisations. The combination of Oscar Peterson and Lionel Hampton, whether cooking together on "Air Mail Special" or savoring the changes of a ballad like "The Nearness of You" made spirits to soar and sparks to fly.