Lionel Leo Hampton (April 20, 1908 – August 31, 2002) was an American jazz vibraphonist, pianist, percussionist, bandleader and actor. Like Red Norvo, he was one of the first jazz vibraphone players. Hampton ranks among the great names in jazz history, having worked with a who's who of jazz musicians, from Benny Goodman and Buddy Rich to Charlie Parker and Quincy Jones. In 1992, he was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.
Lionel Hampton began his career playing drums for the Chicago Defender Newsboys' Band (led by Major N. Clark Smith) while still a teenager in Chicago. He moved to California in 1927 or 1928, playing drums for the Dixieland Blues-Blowers. He made his recording debut with The Quality Serenaders led by Paul Howard, then left for Culver City and drummed for the Les Hite band at Sebastian's Cotton Club. During this period he began practicing on the vibraphone. In 1930 Louis Armstrong came to California and hired the Les Hite band, asking Hampton if he would play vibes on two songs. So began his career as a vibraphonist, popularizing the use of the instrument ever since.
While working with the Les Hite band, Hampton also occasionally did some performing with Nat Shilkret and his orchestra. During the early 1930s he studied music at the University of Southern California. In 1934 he led his own orchestra, and then appeared in the 1936 Bing Crosby film Pennies From Heaven alongside Louis Armstrong (wearing a mask in a scene while playing drums).
While Hampton worked for Goodman in New York, he recorded with several different small groups known as the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, as well as assorted small groups within the Goodman band. In 1940 Hampton left the Goodman organization under amicable circumstances to form his own big band.
Hampton's orchestra became popular during the 1940s and early 1950s. His third recording with them in 1942 produced a classic version of "Flying Home", featuring a solo by Illinois Jacquet that anticipated rhythm & blues. The selection became very popular, and so in 1944 Hampton recorded "Flying Home, Number Two" featuring Arnett Cobb. The song went on to become the theme song for all three men. Guitarist Billy Mackel first joined Hampton in 1944, and would perform and record with him almost continuously through the late 1970s. In 1947 he recorded "Stardust" at a "Just Jazz" concert with Charlie Shavers and Slam Stewart produced by Gene Norman.
From the mid-1940s until the early 1950s, Hampton led a lively rhythm & blues band whose Decca Records recordings included numerous young performers who later achieved fame. They included bassist Charles Mingus, saxophonist Johnny Griffin, guitarist Wes Montgomery, vocalist Dinah Washington and keyboardist Milt Buckner. Other noteworthy band members were trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie, Cat Anderson, and Kenny Dorham, trombonists Snooky Young and Jimmy Cleveland, and saxophonists Illinois Jacquet and Jerome Richardson.
The Hampton orchestra that toured Europe in 1953 included Clifford Brown, Gigi Gryce, Anthony Ortega, Monk Montgomery, George Wallington, Art Farmer, Quincy Jones, and singer Annie Ross. Hampton continued to record with small groups and jam sessions during the 1940s and 1950s, with Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Buddy DeFranco, and others. In 1955, while in California working on The Benny Goodman Story he recorded with Stan Getz and Art Tatum for Norman Granz as well as with his own big band.
Hampton performed with Louis Armstrong and Italian singer Lara Saint Paul at the 1968 Sanremo Music Festival in Italy. The performance created a sensation with Italian audiences, as it broke into a real jazz session. That same year, Hampton received a Papal Medal from Pope Paul VI.
Beginning in February 1984, Hampton and his band played at the University of Idaho's annual jazz festival, which was renamed the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival the following year. In 1987 the UI's school of music was renamed for Hampton, the first university music school named for a jazz musician.
Hampton remained active until a stroke in Paris in 1991 led to a collapse on stage. That incident, combined with years of chronic arthritis, forced him to cut back drastically on performances. However, he did play at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2001 shortly before his death.
Lionel Hampton (Louisville, 20 de abril de 1908 - Nueva York, 31 de agosto de 2002). Vibrafonista, pianista, batería, cantante y director estadounidense de jazz.
Hampton fue el primer vibrafonista del jazz y una de sus grandes figuras desde los años treinta. Su estilo es fundamentalmente el del jazz clásico, o mainstream jazz, con fuertes vínculos con el jazz de las big bands, esto es, con el swing.
Hampton comenzó como batería, tocando en su juventud con los Chicago Defender Newsboys' Band. Su gran ídolo fue Jimmy Bertrand, un baterista de los años veinte. Hampton tocó en la Costa Oeste con grupos como Curtis Mosby's Blue Blowers, Reb Spikes y Paul Howard's Quality Serenaders; con estos últimos hizo su primera grabación en 1929, antes de unirse a la banda de Les Hite, que durante un tiempo acompañó a Louis Armstrong. Durante una sesión de grabación en 1930, a instancias de Armstrong, Lionel, que ya había practicado previamente con él, tocó el vibráfono, siendo el primero en improvisar con tal instrumento durante una grabación.
Sería seis años después cuando Lionel Hampton se haría famoso. Tras dejar a Hite, tuvo su propio grupo en el Paradise Cafe de Los Ángeles, hasta que una noche en 1936 Benny Goodman lo descubrió actuando. Hampton grabó con él de forma inmediata, junto con Teddy Wilson y Gene Krupa en su famoso cuarteto. Hampton se convirtió en una de las estrellas del grupo, apareciendo en películas con Goodman, en el famoso concierto del Carnegie Hall de 1938 y cada noche en la radio. En 1937, comenzó a grabar como líder para la compañía Víctor, acompañado siempre de grandes figuras.
Hampton estuvo con Goodman hasta 1940, a veces tocando la batería e incluso cantando. En 1940, Lionel formó su primera big band y en 1942 tuvo un gran éxito con "Flying Home". Durante el resto de la década, su orquesta fue una de las grandes favoritas del público, acercándose al R&B y mostrando la influencia del bebop desde 1944. Entre sus acompañantes, se encontraban artistas de la talla de Dinah Washington (a quien Hampton ayudó a triunfar), Dexter Gordon, Charles Mingus, Fats Navarro, Wes Montgomery, Betty Carter y otros muchos. La popularidad de Hampton le permitió seguir liderando bandas hasta mediados de los noventa.