Fast-paced and seamlessly choreographed, the concert features outstanding student musicians from the Lionel Hampton School of Music. | Feb. 6 More
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Internationally acclaimed giant of the jazz world, and the undisputed "King of the Vibraphone" for well over half a century, Lionel Hampton began his phenomenal musical career at an early age when a student at the Holy Rosary Academy in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he studied under the strict supervision of the Dominican Sisters. His first instrument was a set of drums and his idol during these early years was drummer Jimmy Bertrand whose records he treasured.
Louis Armstrong soon became a major influence in Hamp's young years. It was in 1930 that Armstrong hired him to appear, on the drums, at a Los Angeles nigthclub engagement. Louis was so impressed with Hampton's talents he invited him to join his big band for a recording session. During the session break, Armstrong led young Hampton to a set of vibes and asked if he knew how to play them. Lionel, who was well schooled in his keyboard studies, picked up the mallets and played. The first tune cut that day, "Memories of You ," (with Lionel on vibes) became a tremendous hit and has remained a classic throughout the years.
In 1936, Benny Goodman asked Lionel to join his small group, featuring Goodman, Teddy Wilson on piano and Gene Krupa on drums. They immediately became the legendary Benny Goodman Quartet. Musical history was being made, both for their brilliant music produced and because they were the first racially integrated group of jazz musicians. The Swing Era had begun. "Moonglow," "Dinah," and "Vibraphone Blues" were immediate hits and will always remain classics in the jazz annals. Hampton formed his own band in the early 1940's. "Sunny Side of the Street," "Central Avenue Breakdown," his signature tune, "Flying Home," and "Hamp's Boogie-Woogie" all became top-of-the-chart best-sellers upon release and the name Lionel Hampton became world famous overnight.
The Lionel Hampton Orchestra had a phenomenal array of sidemen. Among those who got their start with Hamp were: Quincy Jones, Wes Montgomery, Clark Terry, Cat Anderson, Ernie Royal, Joe Newman and Fats Navarro. Among Lionel's proteges were singers Dinah Washington, Joe Williams, Betty Carter and Aretha Franklin. Over the years, jazz giant Hampton has received innumerable prestigious awards which keep coming to the distinguished musical master. Among them: The title, American Goodwill Ambassador, bestowed by Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon, The Papal Medal from Pope Paul I, Sixteen Honorary Doctorates, and in 1992 the highly esteemed Kennedy Center Honors Award, in which he shared the musical distinction with Mstislav Rostropovich.
Reminiscing recently about his lifetime of honors and recognitions, Hampton held that the highlight of his career took place when the Music School of the University of Idaho was named the Lionel Hampton School of Music in 1987, becoming the first university music school to be named in honor of a jazz musician.
Also a celebrated composer, Hamp's original ballad, "Midnight Sun" (with Johnny Mercer and Sonny Burke) has become a beloved classic in American Jazz and popular music. His talent in the symphonic field was highly respected. Two major symphonic works, "King David Suite" and "Blues Suite" have been performed often by leading orchestras throughout the world. Even in his last years Lionel Hampton continued to maintain an astonishing professional schedule, and devoted time to community development. A "dream" of his had been to aid in the creation of a university in Uptown New York "...where young Black kids could learn to be Doctors, Lawyers, IBM technicians, and, maybe even musicians."
Lionel Hampton passed away on Saturday, August 31, 2002, leaving behind a jazz legacy that will be cherished by all.