With his sly smile and upraised mallets, vibraphonist Lionel Hampton exuded jazz. His death on Aug. 31, at 94, in Manhattan, after a recent heart attack, marked an era’s end.
A titan of swing, ”Hamp” appeared on groundbreaking 1930s recordings with Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman, and was among the first black musicians to perform with white stars. His landmark 1942 Decca tune, ”Flying Home,” featuring Illinois Jacquet’s raucous sax solo, exploded with brand-new energy. And Hampton had a knack for finding future greats, from Quincy Jones to Betty Carter to Charles Mingus. Up to the end, Hampton’s bands could tear the roof off any venue. His abundant spirit lives on in the hearts of anyone who was ever touched by the magic of jazz.
Essential Recordings: Live at the Blue Note (Telarc, 1991); Ring Dem Bells (Bluebird/RCA, 2002)