The Complete Lionel Hampton Victor Sessions 1937-41 (#238)

Vibes At The Center

Itís interesting that Hampton turned to the vibes after he had already established himself as a musician. Hampton started as a drummer, and played professional as a teenager, planting roots in California during the late 1920s. Only then did he begin practicing on the vibes; he made two recordings for Louis Armstrong on the instrument Ė his first -- when Armstrong recorded in California in 1930.

There were affiliations with other orchestras, university study, a stint leading his own organization, and a feature film performance with Bing Crosby. But the big change in Hamptonís career came when Benny Goodman traveled to Los Angeles in 1936. Goodman had already established the first important racially integrated jazz group with his trio, comprised of Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa. When Goodman heard Hampton, that trio became a quartet.

After he left Goodman in 1940, Hampton formed a big band that became one of the most enduring musical settings in history. But during those years from 1937 to 1941, while he was for the most part still recording with Goodman, Hampton began making these small group recordings. It may have been Goodmanís popularity that exposed Hampton to the world. But it was Hamptonís inventive talent on these recordings that revealed to the world the legitimacy of vibes as a jazz instrument.

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