Lionel Hampton and Friends – Rare Recordings, Vol. 1 (1977)

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by Nick DeRiso

A line-up from jazzer nirvana is one thing. Wringing such ringing performances out of the guys is quite another.

Call this cool vibes from vibrophonist Hampton, who certainly knows where to mail the invitations — a veritable who’s-who of jazz for the newbie: Pianist Hank Jones, trumpeter Thad Jones, pianist Earl “Fatha” Hines, bassist Charlie Mingus, trumpet Clark Terry, baritone sax man Gerry Mulligan, tenor and soprano saxophonist Dexter Gordon, tenorman Coleman Hawkins (out of breath yet?), trumpeter Woody Shaw, drummer Buddy Rich, bassist Milt “The Judge” Hinton, trombone player J.J. Johnson, drummer Grady Tate and, as they say, a cast of thousands. Not a name there that won’t lead you to new and glorious valleys of jazz wonder.

Listening to the recording itself, however, is a wonder of another kind.

The year of all but one of the tracks is, incredibly, 1977. Not a very good year for, er, JAZZ. (Paging Barry Gibb!)

And these guys weren’t 20 anymore. Or 30, or even 40. In fact, Grady Tate was the youngest — at age 59 — to travel on Lionel Hampton’s Golden Men tour back in 1991.

Dexter Gordon — who played with Hamp back in the 1940s — blasts the collection off with “Seven Come Eleven,” the old Benny Goodman tune. (Goodman’s famous late-1930s sextet, of course, first recorded with it, with this young cat named Hampton.)

Hamp’s thoughtful left turn here is the addition of congos by Candido, who did such expressive work with Dizzy Gillespie. Two by Gerry Mulligan and two with Charles Mingus go on to dominate “Rare Recordings.”

Perhaps the best is the aptly titled “Gerry Meets Hamp,” an update of Hampton’s signature tune, “Flyin’ Home.” As for Mingus, the tracks are muscular (which is no surprise), and dense — which is, well, no surprise.

Other highlights: the old-favorite of rousers, Ray Noble’s “Cherokee”; and the non-1977 date — a 1965 take on Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust,” which is stunning.

Hamp, even leading the sessions, is not showy. All the names get their chance to noodle.

Ever graceful, Lionel Hampton: Hope you’re somewhere still … flyin’ home.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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