Written by Fantasma el Rey
Lionel Hampton - Live In ’58 is a jumpin’, jivin’ romp through some of the best jazz/swing by one of the best ever. By 1958 you might expect Hamp to be outdated as rock ‘n’ roll had been ripping the scene apart for just about five years but he brings his “A” game and puts on a hell of a show. Hamp leads his band with the fire and fury of a young man. Even though he is fifty, he shows that you’re never too old to swing. And Hamp would do just that, well into his later years he was still “Flying Home” with the same pace that he drove in his prime.
Recorded in Belgium, Live In ‘58 opens with “The High And The Mighty” already in progress, a slow tune that has him tapping the vibes and giving a hint of his genius. According to trumpet player Art Hoyle, Hamp would never open a show with a number like that. So combined with the fact that Hamp and company usually put on a show that would last a couple of hours (here we get fifty-eight minutes), we’re left to believe that the filmed portion of the show was only half or part of the whole. Also missing is “Flying Home,” a crowd favorite and Hamp’s biggest hit. Oh well, any footage is worth having of this musical great in action.
Hamp moves over to the piano for “Hamp’s Piano Blues” and picks up the pace as his band does the same. Things star to really jump as Hamp sits next to his regular piano man, Oscar Denard, to trade runs on the black and whites. Both display fine skill tickling the ivories but with the spotlight on Hamp we see that he has fingers like Olympic sprinters, dashing to and fro as they skip along the 88 keys. We get good solos from the sax and trumpet before Hamp heads back to the vibes with a bit of scatting and moves us into “The History Of Jazz.”
“The History Of Jazz” puts the clarinet, trumpet, and trombone up front to wail throughout. The opening is a sleepy tune that sounds a bit like “Stormy Weather” and brings the feel of a New Orleans street scene circa late 1800s/early 1900s. The “History” continues with “Hot Club Blues,” a mid-tempo blues that goes out to the hot club of Belgium and mixes traditional with modern jazz, featuring Cornelius “Pinocchio” James on vocals. “Pinocchio” has a good jazz/blues voice in the same style as Billy Eckstein but not as powerful as “Big” Joe Turner.