Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Lionel Hampton Orchestra 1958 - The Mess Is Here, Revisited (ezz-thetics records, 2022)

Ezz-Thetics Records makes an interesting shift on this album from their usual free jazz offerings to vibraphonist, pianist and drummer Lionel Hampton's big band on tour in jazz hungry Europe, performing in Stuttgart, during January 1958. The band doesn't have any of Hampton's more famous past members, but the performers here are very solid indeed, backed up by some German musicians sitting in with the band. Hampton is not resting on his swing era laurels and the set list reflects this, still showcasing his big hit "Flying Home" which is given an extended reading, but without a saxophonist the likes of Illinois Jacquet in the band, Hampton takes matters into his own hands with a driving vibraphone solo that swings hard and pushes the rest of the band into driving accompaniment. Hampton was up to date with the current musical trends, taking the band through some fast bebop flag wavers, Charlie Parker's "Conformation" and Denzil Best's "Move," which are played with some sparkling solos from alto saxophone and piano as well as strong riffing from the remainder of the band. There is an appropriately moody rendition of Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight" with a lengthy feature for pianist Oscar Dennard, who plays with a deft touch. But the Hampton band at heart was an entertaining unit and this is shown in the big finale, starting with Jimmy Witherspoon's "New Orleans Woman" with some excellent blues singing from vocalist Cornelius "Pinocchio" James leading the group into their closer, "Hamp's Boogie Woogie" where both Dennard and Hampton solo in piano along with strong support from the large ensemble carrying them to a swinging finish. This album worked well, the sound remastering is well done, and there are interesting liner notes putting the music into historical context. The Mess Is Here, Revisited - Squidco

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