Bees Followup: Lionel Hampton

Rifftides reader Ted Arenson writes in response to yesterday’s posting about bees and a piece of bee-oriented music:

How about Hamp and the Ellingtonians great recording of “Buzzin ‘Round with the Bee?”

HamptonThat’s a fine reminder of the many all-star sessions that Lionel Hampton recorded for RCA Victor in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Victor usually listed the records as by “Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra,” suggesting a studio full of musicians. In fact, the bands were combos of as few as six and no more than ten players. They included a cross section of the most prominent jazz artists of the period and helped to overcome the reluctance of major record companies to combine black and white musicians in the studios.

With thanks to Mr. Arenson and at the no doubt small risk of soliciting a tsunami of suggestions about jazz pieces having to do with bees, we bring you “Buzzin’ ‘Round With The Bee.” Lionel Hampton, vibes and vocal; Cootie Williams, trumpet; Lawrence Brown, trombone; Johnny Hodges, alto saxophone; Jess Stacy, piano; Alan Reuss, guitar; John Kirby, bass; Cozy Cole, drums.

Readers with sharp eyes may have noticed that the record label lists Mezz Mezzrow on clarinet, but he is nowhere to be heard on that track or on “Whoa Babe” and “Stompology,” the other two from the April 14, 1937 session. The Mosaic label has a five-CD box of Hampton’s Victor sessions from 1937 to 1941, amazingly not yet sold out. To see my Jazz Times review of the set, go here.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit


    • Doug Ramsey says

      Mulligan’s and Desmond’s friend, the actress Judy Holliday, gets credit for the title. John Beal and Connie Kay get credit for the bass playing and drumming.

      • Frank Roellinger says

        Here’s another one: “A Sleepin’ Bee” by Nancy Wilson and Cannonball Adderley.

        • Doug Ramsey says

          I’ll see your Wilson-Adderley and raise you a Mel Tormé. Don’t overlook the superb Tormé-Marty Paich version of “A Sleepin’ Bee” on their Swings Shubert Alley album.

          • David says

            While I hesitate to mention the obvious cliché, guitarist Jennifer Batten’s version of “Flight of the Bumblebee” is unique. Here, it’s interspersed in a tribute to Les Paul. The bee part begins at 3:27, but those with a sufficiently irreverent sense of humor will enjoy the preceding take-off on Paul’s recording of “Lover.” The guitarist’s original video of “Bumblebee” had her swarmed by bees while playing guitar in the wild.

  1. says

    Doug, THANK YOU for posting this! Fond memories of my old boss, Lionel, truly in his prime. And Lawrence Brown, one of the true giants of the trombone! Wow! What a great record! The pure, unabashed energy! The innate sense of SWING! The buoyancy and the happiness in all the playing! Speechless…………

    • Terence Smith says

      Scott, your old boss Lionel Hampton IS the Boss in so many ways!
      And those RCA Victor sides are truly a Who’s Who of a wonderful era,
      so they are very educational, I think.

      When I first heard the contrasting styles of Lawrence Brown and J.C. Higginbotham’s trombone solos and sounds on the Hampton RCA sessions( my father had some of the Hampton All Star recordings ), it helped me to notice something wonderful: So many different styles can work so well, be so personal,
      and work so well together.

      If you get the chance, hear Lawrence Brown with Hampton on “Whoa Babe”, versus J.C. Higginbotham on “I’m on My Way from You,” “Haven’t Named it Yet,” and “The Heebie Jeebies Are Rockin’ the Town.”

      BTW, that last number (recorded in October, 1939) has a Lionel Hampton vocal that may well be the first time anybody ever advised the audience to “Rock! Rock!”—and Hampton sounds like Chuck Berry,
      but also like he’s just kidding us!

  2. Don Conner says

    This side reinforces my theory that so much can happen In just three little minutes – A great side with a hall-of-fame cast. Nice posting, Doug.

  3. Terence Smith says

    One of my most treasured possessions is my father’s old LP ( Jazztone J1246), Lionel Hampton’s All-Star Groups, which I listened to obsessively from the age of 10 or 11 or earlier. I soon sought out “Swing Classics: Lionel Hampton and His Jazz Groups.” The Bee number is not on these, but some of the best music imaginable is, including “When Lights are Low,””Dinah,” “My Buddy,” “Jack the Bellboy,” and so many more, played by the crème de la crème of the swing bands in unique combos.

    I enjoyed Doug Ramsey’s review of this boxed set very much and would like to add that among the charming novelty items of varied quality are absolutely perfect classics. I think it was in Jazz: Its Evolution and Essence that Andre Hodeir wrote of the Hampton/Coleman Hawkins/Benny Carter “When Lights Are Low” (Dec. 11, 1939 Hampton combo date) that it may be regarded as “the apex of the ascending curve that symbolizes the evolution of swing.” When I read that assessment, I thought, yep, Andre you’re right. I knew just what he meant, and the unforgettable music fills me with an auditory nostalgia even now.

  4. Rob D says

    Great post..wonderful comments. Just another day at Rifftides…:) I just ordered the Hampton set..or rather, I phoned the wife and asked her to do it since I am in a series of meetings today. No better investment than a Mosaic set!

  5. says

    Love those Hamp small band swing sessions; especially the stellar one which took place on my birthday:

    Dizzy Gillespie (tp), Benny Carter (as, arr), Coleman Hawkins, Chu Berry, Ben Webster (ts), Lionel Hampton (vib), Clyde Hart (p), Charlie Christian (g), Milt Hinton (b), Cozy Cole (d) – Supervised by Leonard Joy, NYC, September 11, 1939

    1. When Lights Are Low
    2. When Lights Are Low
    3. One Sweet Letter From You
    4. Hot Mallets
    5. Early Session Hop

    Now, here’s my favorite version of “Flight Of The Bumblebee” — Fasten your seat belts, sit back and get ready for this stunning delivery of sheer breathtaking virtuosity.