The September Jazz Times has my rather long review of Mosaic’s box of Lionel Hampton’s small-band recordings from the late 1930s and early forties. The five CDs contain a sizeable percentage of the best combo music of the period. From the review:
RCA Victor’s formula was simple: put the exciting young vibraphonist, drummer and two-finger piano player Lionel Hampton in a studio with various combinations of his peers and see what happens. With a few exceptions, these were lightly organized jam sessions. Accordingly, the music varies in quality, but many of the 107 tracks represent the swing era at its artistic zenith. Hampton’s collaborators came from the bands of Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Luis Russell, Fletcher Henderson, Cab Calloway, Fats Waller and Earl Hines, giving him the cream of the period’s soloists and rhythm players.
Often on autopilot and in full bombast, Hampton was always propulsive. When he was in the mood and in the right company, he could also be lyrical and sensitive with dynamics and harmonies. He was in the right company late in 1939 in a session with Carter on trumpet, Coleman Hawkins on tenor, clarinetist Edmond Hall and a stimulating rhythm section of pianist Joe Sullivan, guitarist Freddie Green, bassist Artie Bernstein and drummer Zutty Singleton. Hampton is particularly effective in “Dinah,” but Hawkins steals the date with the magnificence of his playing on that tune, “My Buddy” and “Singin’ the Blues.”
To read the whole thing, go here.
Hampton wanted to put Quincy Jones in his trumpet section after he heard him in Seattle when Jones was fifteen. Mrs. Hampton overruled her husband and insisted that the boy finish
high school. Jones did, and was studying at the Schillinger School of music in Boston when Hampton renewed the offer. That was the end of school and the beginning of Jones’s career as trumpeter, arranger, composer, leader, producer and the winner of more Grammy awards (27) than anyone but Sir George Solti (31). Paul deBarros recently published a profile of Jones in The Seattle Times. It covers Jones’s life from before his formative days at Seattle’s Garfield High School to the present.
When the new freshman class enters a new Garfield in a few days, it’s likely many will not know the school was named for an American president. But most will have heard of Quincy Jones. That’s because, again and again, he has adapted to current musical trends. Starting out with Hampton’s jazz, he moved easily through the jazz/rock fusion of “Walking in Space,” the ’70s funk of the Brothers Johnson, the crossover rock of Jackson’s “Thriller” (which merged black and white traditions in an unprecedented way), then went on to hip-hop with “Back on the Block.”
Some jazz musicians view Jones as an opportunist who deserted the art of jazz for the commerce of pop. But as many others have noted, Jones’ creative vision makes moot most arguments about jumping musical fences. In 1973, when funk was king, he coproduced the TV show “Duke Ellington, We Love You Madly.” Quincy says Ellington himself told him after the show, “Q, you may be the one to decategorize American music.”
To read all of deBarros’s article, go here.
Here is a sample of the magnificent 1960 Quincy Jones big band playing “Rack ‘em Up,” with tenor saxophonists Jerome Richardson and Budd Johnson out front.