Lionel Hampton And His All-Star Alumni Big Band – Newport Uproar! – RCA Victor LSP-3891 (1968)/  Pure Pleasure Records PPAN LSP-3891 (2015) – stereo audiophile vinyl, 41:35 ****1/2:

(Lionel Hampton – vibes, piano, drums; Snooky Young – trumpet; Jimmy Nottingham – trumpet; Joe Newman – trumpet; Wallace Davenport – trumpet; Al Grey – trombone; Garnett Brown – trombone; Britt Woodman – trombone; Benny Powell – trombone; Jerome Richardson – reeds; George Dorsey – reeds; Frank Foster – reeds; Dave Young – reeds; Ed Pazant – reeds; John Spruill – piano; Billy Mackel – guitar; George Duvivier – bass; Steve Little – drums; Alan Dawson – drums; Milt Buckner – piano; Illinois Jacquet – tenor saxophone)

There is a plethora of information regarding the cultural upheaval of 1967. The Summer of Love introduced psychedelic rock. One symbolic event of that year was The Monterey Pop Festival. But there was an equally important event happening three thousand miles away. The Newport Jazz Festival was holding its fourteenth yearly event. More importantly the world of big band jazz claimed its rightful place in the musical landscape. Top notch outfits like Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Don Ellis and a group from Japan (Sharps and Flats) were scheduled to appear. And the closing act was none other than Lionel Hampton. In his debut at Newport, Hampton assembled an impressive lineup of current and past members of his bands. After meticulous rehearsals, Lionel Hampton And His All Star Alumni Big Band did what great acts do…they blew the crowd away!

Pure Pleasure Records has released a 180-gram vinyl recording of this historic performance. Hampton’s band comes out swinging on “Turn Me Loose”. With jazzy swagger and quasi r& b aesthetics, the number sparkles with up tempo rhythm and tough horn/reed charts. Al Grey shines on trombone and trumpeter Wallace Davenport adds some hot licks, sometimes against the horns. The rhythm section (John Spruill/piano, George Duvivier/bass, Billy Mackel/guitar and Steve Little/drums) is stellar and brings a contemporary translation to big band. Hampton and his virtuosic play invigorate the melodic original, “Thai Silk”. His solo is hypnotic and is framed in a small ensemble for a while. The band (especially the reed section) displays subtlety in a slower rhythm but still has modulations and blend effortlessly with Hampton. The vibraphone wizard shows off his soloing on “Tempo’s Birthday”. There is a playful dance hall resonance. On “Greasy Greens”, straight-ahead blues (with some funkiness) features guitarist Billy Mackel and Ed Pazant on alto saxophone. The audience is enthusiastic and they are rewarded with a spirited encore that bristles with energy.

Hampton and his band maintain a high energy throughout the set. “Meet Benny Bailey” (a Quincy Jones number) is propelled by Hampton’s furious, percussive vibraphone. Trumpeter Joe Newman excels on his solos with A Ziggy Elman-esque finish. Hampton joins Milt Buckner on dueling pianos for the medley, ”Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop/Hamp’s Boogie Woogie”. The call and response vocals are reminiscent of Cab Calloway. Shifting to some low-down, vampy grooves, “Misunderstood Blues” is jazz exchange at its best. Jimmy Nottingham (trumpet) and Benny Powell (on bass trombone) interact with great chemistry in this inspired arrangement. It would take an extraordinary effort to close Newport 1967, and “Flying Home” does just that! The addition of a second drummer (Alan Dawson) and Buckner adds more intensity. A special treat is the gutsy tenor saxophone work of Illinois Jacquet. After a signature, percolating vibes run, Jacquet exudes soulful panache. The band surrounds him, building toward an explosive crescendo that brings down the house.

The overall sound quality is very good, considering the outdoor venue. The instrument separation and balance is surprisingly consistent. The listener can hear some of the reverb and echo on the vibraphone. Liner notes by Stanley Dance are informative and convey the enthusiasm of this memorable concert.


Side 1: Turn Me Loose; Thai Silk; Tempo’s Birthday; Greasy Greens

Side 2: Meet Benny Bailey; Medley: Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop/Hamp’s Boogie Woogie; Misunderstood Blues, Flying Home

–Robbie Gerson