There will, most likely, never be another vibraphonist with the musicality and historical significance of Lionel Hampton. A consummate performer, artist, entertainer and bandleader, Hampton set the standard for not just how percussionists could lead a band but how it should be done, not just by percussionists but by all band leaders. With respect to presenting audiences with not just the highest standards of musical art, but also presenting the material in a pleasing manner, Hampton was the master. Anyone who ever saw this incredible musician live will never forget his energy, his vitality, his totally mastery of his instrument, the superior strength and abilities of his band members, and the incredible warmth he conveyed from the moment he hit the stage to the end of the concert.
This live one-hour concert on DVD of Hampton with his big band, filmed by Belgian television in 1958, presents the master in all of his roles. While the entire concert was probably not filmed, those who have heard Hampton live know he played extremely long concerts, what was filmed opens with a sweet ballad, "The High And The Mighty." Utilizing just Hampton and the rhythm section, the vibraphonist displays his unparalleled melodic conception through improvisatory means. His solo is so succinct it’s no wonder he’s so highly revered.
Jumping to the piano for "Hamp’s Piano Blues," Hampton utilizes the two finger style of soloing associated with all vibraphonists when soloing on the piano. Though the instrument is different, the voice is the same.
The next four tunes showcase different bandmembers in a musical travelogue through some of jazz’s history, at least as far as 1958. First Hampton recreates a Dixieland band by bringing three members (trumpet, trombone, clarinet) to the front of the stage, followed by a tribute to Belgium’s Hot Club. Cornelius "Pinocchio" James’s singing swings like rocking chair in gale-force winds. More Dixieland is up next and so on.
Hampton, always a master of getting the best musicians to play with him, features soloists such as saxophonist Andy McGhee, trumpeters Art Hoyle and Eddie Williams, guitarist Billy Mackel, clarinetist Bobby Plater and drummer Wilbert Hogan. Together they, Hampton, and the rest of the band, present an hour of not just interesting and fun jazz, but place it all in an exciting context that will make you want to watch this concert over and over again.