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Lionel Hamton, Photo courtesy of the William P. Gottlieb Collection

Happy Birthday Lionel Hampton!

April 20, 2017

Hamp would have been 109 today! To celebrate, Loren Schoenberg’s sharing five of his favorite Hampton tracks, plus two new gems from The Savory Collection.

Enjoy them now on Apple Music.

“Moonlight Blues” with Paul Howard, 1929
Hamp made his very first record date in 1929 with Paul Howard’s Quality Serenaders, a top band in Los Angeles. Not only does he play the drums, but he also sings a scat chorus, a la his idol, Louis Armstrong. Little did he know a year later he’d be playing drums for Satchmo on a series of soon to be historic recordings.

“Memories of You” with Louis Armstrong, 1930
This is the first recording Hampton made on vibes – at the time he was Louis Armstrong’s drummer. The vibes were in the corner – Louis asked Hamp if he could work out an intro, and the rest is history.

“Everybody Loves My Baby” with Benny Goodman, 1937
It was the four years with Benny Goodman’s band that brought Hampton to international fame. He sang, played the vibes in the small groups, and also played drums with the big band as needed. This broadcast version of a tune that the BG Quartet (Goodman, Hamp, pianist Teddy Wilson and drummer Gene Krupa) and never recorded commercially, shows Hamp the great soloist and ensemble player as the temperature rises chorus to chorus.

“Shufflin’ at the Hollywood” with Benny Goodman, 1939
This is an early, and one of the most engaging versions of the jazz shuffle. Hampton and saxophonist Chu Berry ride effortlessly over the rhythm section (drummer Cozy Cole, bassist Milt Hinton, guitarist Allan Reuss), which manages to sustain the shuffle with a feathery lightness — no easy task at this tempo.

“Flyin’ Home,” 1967
Of all the recorded versions of Hamp’s famous theme song, this 1967 Newport Jazz Festival has to be the most exciting. Tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet reprises his famous solo, and the band, boosted by two drummers and a fervent audience cheering them along.

“Dinah” and “Rosetta,” 1938
These are two gems from a 1938 jam session, a once-in-a-lifetime meeting of young jazz greats that had escaped any and all mention until their recent release in The Savory Collection. Just off the heels of the “Spirituals to Swing” concert at Carnegie Hall, this live radio broadcast brought together bassist Milt Hinton and drummer Cozy Cole (from the Cab Calloway band), trombonist Vernon Brown, alto saxophonist Dave Matthews and Hampton (from the Benny Goodman band), pianist Howard Smith, a young Charlie Shavers on trumpet, and Basie tenorman Herschel Evans in one of his last recordings before his death just two months later.