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Lionel Hampton/Oscar Peterson: The Complete Lionel Hampton Quartets and Quintets with Oscar Peterson on Verve

When Lionel Hampton left Benny Goodman in 1940 to form his own big band, he was only following in a line recently established by Goodman’s other star soloists, Gene Krupa, Harry James, and Teddy Wilson. But despite the presence of Ben Webster and some excellent arrangements, Teddy’s band failed within a year; Gene’s did not begin to take off until he nabbed Roy Eldridge and Anita O’Day in 1941; and Harry’s only began to see really big numbers when he shifted his emphasis to saccharine sweet ballads. By contrast, Hamp hit his public hard and heavy. Among the hip young jazzmen populating his first big band were Joe Newman, Fred Beckett, Dexter Gordon, and Illinois Jacquet, and in “Flying Home” and “Hamp’s Boogie Woogie” he nailed two hits which were to remain in his book forever after.

At the time of the first session in this set, September 2, 1953, Hamp had just concluded a European tour with a band including Clifford Brown, Art Farmer, Jimmy Cleveland, Gigi Gryce, George Wallington, and other young boppers, so he was far from being unaware of recent trends in jazz when he confronted Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, and Buddy Rich in Verve’s New York studio. As a matter of fact, he is the consummate jazz improviser on all of the performances in this set, and, just as importantly, he retains his own sound and personality throughout, never once alluding to any of the other modern vibists, such as Red Norvo, Milt Jackson, and Terry Gibbs. Yet, in his use of straight rather than syncopated eighth-notes and certain boppish trademark phrasings, such as sixteenth-note triplets, he is clearly not the same musician he was in the ’30s.

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