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Duane Thamm and the Chuck Hedges Swingtet: Tribute to Hamp

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Now that vibraphonist Duane Thamm has reached the golden age of 70, he seems to have taken on a Lincolnesque outlook to the occasional bumps in the road to jazz success: “With mallets toward none, with charity toward all.” Consider his career as a percussionist, during which he played, recorded and toured with Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Henry Mancini, Tony Bennett, Ray Brown, Buddy DeFranco, Andy Williams and Gary Burton. He still teaches and has published methods for xylophone, marimba, snare drum, and he’s one of a rare breed who can play jazz chimes.

After more than 50 years of all that, Thamm has finally issued his first album as leader! Sadly, the sound is less than ideal. Thamm, with the Chuck Hedges Swingtet (Frank Dawson, guitar; John Bany, bass; Charlie Braugham, drums) devoted the session to his greatest influence, Lionel Hampton. Seven of the eight tracks are fine, straightahead tributes to the blendings of Hamp and Benny Goodman, which makes sense since Hedges is a first-rate clarinetist, and the chemistry between Thamm and Hedges is as close as it was between Hamp and B.G. The sound of jazz on chimes is strictly a novelty; an entire album of same should not be contemplated. But it does show Thamm’s versatility. Elsewhere his fluidity is remarkable, as evidenced by the familiar “Seven Come Eleven” and in particular, the contrapuntal exchanges on “Avalon.” Why that spontaneous minute and a half of Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday” was included is a mystery. It should have been excised; the changes are questionable.

Perhaps Thamm is hiding his disappointment because his son, Duane Jr., recorded the concert live at the Washington Library Center, in Chicago. Whatever. Delmark and/or the library should be ashamed for not making certain these fine traditional musicians were given a sound reception.