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Slide Hampton and the World of Trombones: Spirit of the Horn

In 1979 Slide Hampton wrapped himself with luxurious sonorities when he released World of Trombones: nine ‘bones plus rhythm, in which he entrusted newcomer Janice Robinson with the responsibility of lead chair. Now Hampton has updated himself with a choir of 12, including the only holdover from the original World, bass trombonist Douglas Purviance, as well as Benny Powell (sounding like his old self, following health problems) and four “rhythm” trombone players, plus guest Bill Watrous in a live concert at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in Hampton’s home town of Pittsburgh.

Hampton’s arranging skills reveal the versatility and unlimited colors of the instrument, making full use of eight tenor and four bass trombones. His penchant for tight clusters and wide-open voicings achieve something like a full orchestral palette. Best examples: “Lester Leaps In,” where passing tones connect solis and sections goose other sections in retro-swing style, and particularly “April in Paris,” where Hampton furtively inserts “The Marseillaise” as soloist, and repeats it later as arranger. In the latter role he tips his horn to Basie’s watershed chart.

Watrous shares solo honors with Hampton in a way-up cutting contest on “Cherokee,” but Watrous’ solo feature on Strayhorn’s haunting “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing” stays with you longer. A Hampton melody line, “Blues for Eric,” features every ‘bone in the “body.” Fortunately, the liner notes list the order of solos.

Nothing—repeat, nothing—compares to the timbre of a trombone choir.

Originally Published