This reissue is a loving tribute to the late vibist who was such a giant of the jazz world for so many decades. It originated as a l989 recording session featuring a singer whose career had been encouraged by Hampton. Sylvia Bennett, the singer, auditioned for Hampton in the early 1980s. He hired her on the spot to appear with his band on a tour of Florida. Their continuing relationship included appearing at the inaugurations of two U.S. presidents, and an album together – Sentimental Journey – which received a l987 Grammy nomination.
For their second album together a rather different approach was used than the first. Lionel was used to having his vibes set up in the large kitchen of his home. The producers found he was relaxed and spontaneous in this comfortable and familiar surrounding, so they created a home studio, with the board and all the recording gear in Lionel’s living room and the vibist at his instrument in the kitchen. Most of the big band backing was recorded in a standard studio beforehand, and then as Lionel and Sylvia listened to the tracks on headphones they created their solos to fit in. This major work is a new and not-before-released Hampton recording containing four new songs plus covers of some standards. In addition to his real vibes he used his signature two-finger keyboard style on a vibraphone synthesizer. The fairly straight vocal by Bennett on You Make My Heart Sing is later turned into a dance mix to appeal to the dance set. One great tune included from the heyday of Hampton’s big band is Red Top.
The video DVD includes some footage of Hampton – also never seen before, but like many dual or double-discs it is not a straight-thru concert performance video but basically an introduction and pean to the CD. Bennett talks about how lucky she was to get support from Hampton, and introduces her various vocals on the album. Both performers praise one another, etc. etc. It’s all nice and heartwarming but I doubt anyone will ever watch the DVD again. Still, it’s great to hear Hampton on the CD playing the heck out of the instrumentals and backing the excellent vocals of Bennett, even if it isn’t his own band and he had nothing to do with the arrangements.
Tracks: Just One of Those Things, There Will Never Be Another You, Cookin’ in the Kitchen, Sweet Man of Mine, Beulah’s Boogie, Bill Bailey, It Might As Well Be Spring, Together, Red Top, Please Love Me, Someday, You Make My Heart Sing, You Make My Heart Sing (dance remix).
– John Henry