Here is the 12th volume in the complete chronological recordings of Lionel Hampton as reissued by the Classics label. It opens with Hamp's final five recordings for the MGM label, waxed in Los Angeles on October 17, 1951. This was a 20-piece big band using charts written by Quincy Jones, and the music it made feels much different from what's to be heard in the next leg of Lionel Hampton's odyssey, a Norman Granz-produced quartet session with Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown and Buddy Rich, recorded in New York on September 2, 1953. While the big band sides are exciting and fun, with a hip vocal by Sonny Parker on "Don't Flee the Scene Salty" and a singalong routine led by Hamp on "Oh Rock," the quartet swings cohesively, stretching out for six, seven or nearly eleven minutes, for the LP era had begun and Norman Granz encouraged extended improvisations. The combination of Oscar Peterson and Lionel Hampton, whether cooking together on "Air Mail Special" or savoring the changes of a ballad like "The Nearness of You" made spirits to soar and sparks to fly.
Lionel Hampton is joined by a number of top French jazz musicians plus Nat Adderley and American expatriate Benny Bailey for this 1955 studio session, playing Christian Chevalier's charts. "All the Things You Are" features the vibraphonist with the rhythm section, with strong solo efforts by guitarist Sacha Distel and pianist René Urtreger, along with the leader. The low-key, lengthy treatment of "I Cover the Waterfront" almost suggests a Jazz at the Philharmonic session, showcasing nice features for trumpeter Bernard Hullin, tenor saxophonist Maurice Meunier, Urtreger, and Hampton.
Lionel Hampton joins forces with a number of top French musicians for this 1955 studio session, reissued in Verve's Jazz in Paris series. Three of the four compositions are Hampton's, swinging tunes arranged by Christian Chevalier. The first, "Voice of the North," is primarily for the leader's matchless vibes with the rhythm section, though individual soloists are featured, including fellow Americans Nat Adderley and Benny Bailey on trumpets and David Amram on French horn, as well as clarinetist Maurice Meunier and baritone saxophonist William Boucaya. It's just Hampton and the rhythm section (pianist René Urtreger, bassist Guy Pedersen, and drummer Jean-Baptiste Reilles) for the long workout of "À la French." The one standard of the date, "Crazy Rhythm," suffers from somewhat muddy sound, particularly the overly distant brass. Guitarist Sacha Distel, though admittedly intimidated by Hampton, rises to the leader's level of playing with a fine solo. Overall, this is an enjoyable if not quite essential CD by Lionel Hampton.