(b. 20 April 1908 - 31 Aug 2002) is the founding
of the jazz vibraphone
. As a kid and young
" played drums
. In 1930
he was playing a recording gig
with Louis Armstrong
's big band
showed Hamp a set of
and asked if he knew how to play them. The next
was "Memories of You
" with Hampton playing
, kicking off 71 years of history (and counting).
Lionel Hampton was born in Louisville, Kentucky and
listened to his role model Jimmy Bertrand, a drummer
who also played xylophone occasionally.
After the aforementioned date with Armstrong, Hampton
joined Benny Goodman and his orchestra.
In 1940, Hampton formed his own big band and had a
hit with what was to be his signature song,
"Flying Home." (The original recording features a
classic solo by tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet.)
Some members of his big band who later went on to
fame and fortune (or at least fame) include
Dexter Gordon, Jimmy Griffin, Dinah Washington,
Charles Mingus, Fats Navarro, Wes Montgomery,
and Betty Carter. Especially note-worthy is the
1953 band which Hampton took to Paris; it was star-studded
with the presence of Clifford Brown, Art Farmer,
Quincy Jones, Jimmy Cleveland, and Gigi Gryce.
While there have been periods of hiatus for Hampton's
orchestra, his has been one of the longest lived
leaderships: he has led orchestras from the 1950's to the
1990's. I saw them in the late 1980's at an outdoor
Although Hampton has kept mostly to the swing style of playing, he has adeptly performed in more modern settings,
even recording John Coltrane's "Giant Steps".
As the grand-daddy of the vibraphone he is the proud
patriarch of a small but talented branch of jazz
whose younger members include Milt Jackson, Bobby
Hutcherson, and Gary Burton. Let's only hope there
are more, because the vibraphone is a very pleasant
alternative to piano or guitar in the small jazz combo.
Lionel Hampton passed away on 31 August 2002
in Manhattan's Mount Sinai Medical Center due to old age
and effects of a recent heart attack. Rest in peace, Lionel.