Personalities | Lionel Hampton | Thirties | Jazz & Blues

(Vibraphone, drums, piano, 1908–2002)

Before jazz became highbrow, musicians were cheered, not censured, for being entertainers; Lionel Hampton embraced that model. The more one did, he believed, the more one made. So Hampton was always doing more. During his early years he worked as a drummer. He began experimenting with the vibraphone around 1930, but few bandleaders wanted its unorthodox sound.

In 1936 Benny Goodman heard Hampton, was impressed and immediately invited him to join Gene Krupa and Teddy Wilson, making the Goodman Trio a quartet. Hampton infused Goodman’s groups with enormous inspiration and energy. In 1937 he began a parallel series of remarkable sessions under his own name on Victor that would involve most of the greatest soloists of the period. After leaving Goodman in 1940 Hampton formed his own band, which recorded his definitive version of ‘Flying Home’ in 1942, featuring tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet. He continued leading bands and touring the world well into the 1990s, always a combination of brilliant musician, talent scout and antic showman.

Styles & Forms | Thirties | Jazz & Blues
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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues, founding editor Howard Mandel


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