Two weeks ago alto saxophonist and jazz researcher Mario Schneeberger, his wife Christel and me went to the Schloss Wartegg in Rorschacherberg for a CD release party by swiss born pianist Claude Diallo who is a Boston resident now. This afternoon concert was a bonus event to a mini-tour of switzerland that Claude Diallo had organized for legendary tenor saxophonist Andrew “Andy” Mc Ghee (born in 1927). McGhee was a member of Lionel Hamptons’ orchestra from 1958 to 1964. He then played with Woody Herman until 1966 when he joined the faculty of Berklee College of Music, where he still is listed as Professor Emeritus. Continue reading
Archive for Lionel Hampton
My friend, the late swiss jazz researcher Otto Flückiger, was a great fan of tenor saxophonist Arnett Cobb (1918–1989). So when Otto went on a trip through the USA in spring of 1980 he took the chance to visit Cobb in his hometown, Houston TX.
Arnett Cobb with Otto Flückiger in Cobb’s home, Houston TX, spring 1980.
Photo probably by Trudi Flückiger.
On that occasion Otto interviewed Cobb about his career, playing with Frank Davis, going to Chicago with Milton Larkin to play at the Rhumboogie, joining Lionel Hampton, forming his own band and the auto accident that dramatically changed Cobb’s life. There are about 40 minutes from this interview on a C90 cassette tape which I found in Otto’s collection:
So I decided to digitize this – unpublished as far as I know – fantastic interview. I just edited out some longer passages of silence and some parts where the conversation is running in circles and into dead ends caused by translation problems. The female voice in the later parts of the interview is Trudi, Otto’s wife, who probably also took the photo of Cobb and Otto shown at the top.
I was always waiting to find the time to transcribe the interview, but I probably never will. So I am putting it up here for you all to hear and cherish yourself:
If you came here because you like Arnett Cobb. I got something more for you. First some nice photographs that Otto Flückiger took when Arnett Cobb appeared in Baden, Switzerland on May 4, 1974 (you can click to enlarge)
And here is some footage of Arnett Cobb featured with the Lionel Hampton Band in Nice, France in summer 1978.
I love to look on ebay for jazz or early r’n’b related memorabilia from time to time. A few weeks ago, being a little bored, I started to browse to see if any interesting photographs would come up. Then suddenly I recognized tenor saxophonist Eddie Chamblee (1920–1999) one one of the stamp sized pictures you see in an ebay listing. The seller was offering the photo under the heading “photo of unidentified black musicians” and I had the luck to get it for the pricely sum of $5.
Eddie Chamblee (left) and two unidentified persons, circa mid 50s.
Comparing with other photos of Chamblee I would say it is from the mid 1950s. The other two men look very familiar to me. Does anyone know, who these two might be? Maybe they are members of Lionel Hampton’s band, Chamblee played with Hampton around 1955/1956. They look familiar, but I am not able to place them.
You might as well have some music while thinking about who these men may be. Here is Eddie Chamblee and his band playing Julian Priester’s composition “Swing A Little Taste”.
This was recorded January 20, 1958 in Chicago for Mercury and the band members are: Fortunatus “Fip” Ricard (tp) Julian Priester (tb) Eddie Chamblee (ts,vcl) Charles Davis (bar) Jack Wilson (p) Robert Wilson (b) James Slaughter (d). And it was released on this LP:
“Swing A Little Taste” had been recorded 18 months earlier on one of the first recording sessions of the Sun Ra Arkestra , of which Priester was a member at that time. This version was originally released on the sampler “Jazz In Transition” on the Transition label (go to Robert L. Campbell’s page about Sun Ra’s early years for more information about that session).
While the label on the Transition LP gives Julian Priester as the sole composer of this tune, the Mercury LP “Doodlin” adds one “Washington” to the composer’s credit. This “Washington” is obviously the person to the right of Chamblee on the cover of the “Doodlin” LP (no prizes for giving her full name).
I also acquired another photo from the same seller, also for $5 (it said “photo of unidentified black musicians” again). Now does anyone have an idea who this lady could be? (And no: Just the fact she is holding a trumpet does not make her Valaida Snow!) Or where and when this photograph was taken?
As announced in this posting, I am finally putting up the gorgeous photographs of Lionel Hampton and his orchestra at the Strand Theatre New York in late April or early May 1949 (from the Otto Flückiger collection). Unfortunately I do not know who made this photographs. I have put my blog’s name on them. This is not to claim copyright on them (which I naturally do not own), but to prevent them from appearng all over the net, If you have an idea who made these, I’d be glad if you let me know.
And here’s some music to watch photographs by: Recorded on May 19, 1949 in N.Y.C. for Decca Records here is nearly the same band as on the photos playing “The Hucklebuck”. Vocals are by Betty Carter.
First up is a photo of the full band:
Too see, who is who, you can open above photo in a new browser window and compare with the reference photograph below
1. Frances Gaddison, 2. Roy Johnson, 3. Billy Willams, 4. Johnny Sparrow,
5. Wes Montgomery, 6. Lionel Hampton, 7. Johnny Board, 8. Bobby Plater,
9. Earl “Fox” Walker, 10. Gene Morris, 11. Benny Bailey,
12. Wendell Cull(e)y 13. probably Walter Williams,
14. probably Leo “The Whistler” Shepherd,
15. Ben Kynard, 16. Jimmy “Harpo” Wormick, 17. Benny Powell,
18. Al Grey, 19. Lester Bass.
(click to enlarge) Bass trumpeter Lester Bass, Earl “Fox” Walker and
Benny Powell at the Strand Theatre, N.Y.C., late April or early May 1949.
Photographer unknown. From the Otto Flückiger collection.
A closer look into the reed section:
(click to enlarge) Bobby Plater, Earl “Fox” Walker and
Gene Morris at the Strand Theatre, N.Y.C., late April or early May 1949.
Photographer unknown. From the Otto Flückiger collection.
Johnny Sparrow was still there (he was soon to form his own band, Johnny Sparrow and his Bows and Arrows).
The 1949 Hampton indeed band had a strong reed section. Here are some shots of tenor player Billy Willams:
And here is Johnny Board:
(click to enlarge) Johnny Board at the Strand Theatre, N.Y.C.,
late April or early May 1949. Photographer unknown.
From the Otto Flückiger collection.
Charles Mingus had left the band already and so Roy Johnson was the sole bassist in this edition of Hampton’s orchestra:
(click to enlarge) Roy Johnson and Billy Williams at the Strand Theatre
N.Y.C., late April or early May 1949. Photographer unknown.
From the Otto Flückiger collection.
Finally: Lots of horns (and a glimpse of Wes Montgomery):
(click to enlarge) The Lionel Hampton Band at the Strand Theatre, N.Y.C.,
late April or early June 1948. Photographer unknown.
From the Otto Flückiger collection.
Trumpet man Wendell Cull(e)y (1906–1983) played in Lionel Hampton’s orchestra from 1944 to 1949, a period in which Milt Buckner was Hampton’s pianist. Culley (as his name is mostly written) and Buckner seem to have kept in contact over the years. There is a letter in Otto Flückiger’s files about Milt Buckner that Culley wrote to Buckner in August 1971 (the letter arrived after a longer journey).
(click to enlarge)
I decided to present this very interesting letter in full, since I think it contains nothing of a too personal nature. In addition I have some very nice other documents to offer here that somehow have a connection to this letter. But let’s start with a question first: Who is “your former vocalist named Jerald” (??)” on the first page? Although being quite knowledgeable about Buckner’s career, I have no idea.
Culley writes about Million Dollar Smile here. This gives us the opportunity to leave the letter for a while:
Since Wendell Culley writes about Eddie Jones buying the record, it’s clear that Culley is talking about the version Hamp recorded for Decca in October 1944:
Lionel Hampton: Million Dollar Smile (L3644 on Decca 18719, October 16, 1944)
But there were people who liked another version (also arranged by Buckner) much better (scroll a little down to hear that one). As Buckner remembered in a 1975 conversation with Otto Flückiger and Kees Bakker:
We got Dinah Washington out of Chicago where she was singing with a church group. Sometimes she was singing there in a club. Hamp heard her somewhere, and before I knew it, she was in the band. I made about all the arrangements for her in Hamp’s band, the first I made was My Bill. I always liked her voice. Gladys Hampton always tried to teach Dinah how to dress. You might remember Million Dollar Smile. I wrote that arrangement so that Dinah could sing it. We got into the Decca studio in Hollywood and we played the thing down and she sang beautifully. Hamp said: ‘Listen, Buck, there should be no singing on this arrangement!’.
This Million Dollar Smile was one of the best records Hamp ever made, because of the sound. The guy that wrote this tune is Porter Roberts. He wrote for a little newspaper in Toledo, Ohio and he is still living there [Buckner was talking in 1975]. Before I came over here, I talked to him on the phone.
I once made a deposition for Porter Roberts in Toledo in the 1950s against Lionel Hampton to describe the scene where Hapmton canceled the vocals. Well Dinah sat there and cried on that deposition and Roberts used it in a trial against Hampton. He was sure that the song was supposed to be a hit. He was sueing on the possibility that his song would have become a hit if Dinah would have sung on it.
An unsigned short article from Jet (dated July 8, 1954) also is related to unhappy feelings in connection with Million Dollar Smile:
Composer Sues Hampton For “Violating” Song Pact
Bandleader Lionel Hampton was sued in Toledo for failing to keep an agreement to record and publish a song titled Your Million-Dollar Smile (sic!). The action was filed by Porter Roberts, who contended he composed the tune and registered it for copyright, then gave half interest to Hampton. He claims Hampton promised to record and publish the song through his firm, Swing and Tempo Music Co., with profits to be equally shared.
I could not find out what the result of this legal hassles were (and I would like to know the publisher and composer credits on the original 78). But if you listen to the arrangement of Million Dollar Smile featuring Dinah Washington – recorded for the Jubilee series – you can in no way doubt its great potential for becoming a hit.
Lionel Hampton: Million Dollar Smile (Jubilee, recorded summer 1944)
There are not many sources on the internet that mention Porter Roberts, but it looks like Roberts was a very interesting person. In the thirties (exact date unknown) he had a column called “Praise And Criticism” in the Pittsburgh Courier, in the fourties this column probably appeared in the Chicago Defender.
Roberts probably had his home base in Detroit in 1945, because that is the place where he started “The Entertainer”, a magazine which was to supply “National Theatrical News Weekly”. In Otto Flückiger’s archives I found a copy of “The Entertainer’s” pilot issue. This is just a one-pager – on the flip there is just a list (how much advertising in future issues will cost). Read the fierce editorial – also named “Praise And Criticism” here – Roberts is not holding anything back.
(click to enlarge and supersize)
The other texts on this page are more or less the usual PR announcements send out by the promoters. But note the blurb about Hampton, which means a year after “Million Dollar Smile” was recorded there seem to no hard feelings between Hampton and Roberts. Have there ever been any regular issues of “The Entertainer”? I could not find out.
So back to the letter:
If Wendell Culley indeed writes about multiinstrumentalist Ben Kynard here, he was misinformed about this supposedly early death. Kynard, (pictured above in an undated, unsigned photograph) the alleged composer of famous tune “Red Top” passed on July 5th 2012, aged 92. Kynard had played with Hampton from 1946–1953.
In the P.S. of his letter, Wendell Culley (as his name is mostly written – but note the signature!) mentions Milt Buckner’s “Fiesta” in Carnegîe Hall 1945. This most probably is “Fiesta de l’Amour” [sic!] a “semi-classical” piece Buckner wrote in the mid-fourties. He had copyrighted it on January 23, 1945 along with seven other compositions that apparently never were recorded.
The program for Hampton’s 1945 Carnegie Hall Concert on April 15th (front pictured above) unfortunately does not mention “Fiesta” among the compositions to be played:
As you see, Herb Quigley’s composition “Three Minutes With Three Notes” was to be the composition played with strings featured. The members of the string section are not known, since the program only mentions Eddie South:
So did Hampton change his mind and have the band with the string section play Buckner’s “Fiesta”? It will be hard to find the exact truth.
Although no recording of “Fiesta” as played by the Lionel Hampton orchestra at the Carnegie Hall is extant, “Fiesta de l’Amor” can be heard on a very rare recording by Milt Buckner’s Orchestra from a “Band For Bonds” broadcast recorded two weeks after Buckner’s first session for MGM in March 1949. The broadcast (details in my Milt Buckner discography) was preserved on glass-based acetate records that were in Milt Buckner’s personal collection. It is not known what became of these glass records, but fortunately Kees Bakker or Otto Flückiger had the opportunity to dub them sometime in the 1970s.
Milt Buckner and his Orchestra: “Fiesta de l’Amour” (“Bands For Bonds” broadcast, recorded probably March 26, 1949)
This version has no strings but nice parts for Milt Buckner on vibraphone and unaccompanied Julius Watkins on french horn.
From time to time my friend Otto published little booklets and leaflets on musicians close to his heart. Since he had a strong interest in the not-too-well-known names who nonetheless had something special to offer, these booklets are very interesting documents, as they often contain information that might not have been published elsewhere.
One fine example is “John Gordon: N.Y.C. Trombone Master”, the little book dedicated to the career of trombonist John Gordon (1939–2003) that Otto produced in 1982. I decided to scan the whole booklet and put it up here, as it gives a fascinating insight to the everyday work of your average first -class jazz musician hustling in N.Y.C in the 1970s and 1980s.
But first, so you will know whom this booklet is about, here is a clip showing Lionel Hampton’s orchestra in Nice in summer 1978. Solos are by Lionel Hampton (vib), Jimmy Maxwell, John Gordon, Doc Cheatham, Curtis Fuller, Earl Warren and Hampton again (this time on drums).
And here is the track “No Tricks, No Gimmicks” from Gordon’s 1975 Strata East LP “Step by Step”, which you may want to listen to while skimming through the booklet:
And here is the booklet. Just click on one of the pages, a clickable gallery will pop up. Enjoy!
Four years ago I found in Otto Flückiger’s archive a 20 minute clip of the Lionel Hampton Orchestra playing Air Mail Special in Prague 1977 with Milt Buckner featured on the organ. It soon turned out that sound and picture lost their synchronicity during the upload to youtube. At that time I did not see what I had done wrong, so I decided to not go through the digitizing process again and leave it the way it is.
But now yesterday I found out that even more footage exists from this concert. So I digitized all 43 minutes that are there (it still ends rather abrupt, so there probably is even more footage extant). Besides Hampton and big-mustached Milt Buckner you get to see and hear Cat Anderson on trumpet, Pauel Moen and the legendary Eddie Chamblee on saxophones, guitarist Billy Mackel and drummer Frankie Dunlop.
From time to time my friend Otto experimented a little bit with his semi-professional equipment to produce little video clips from footage in his archive. The clips he produced often were charming little portraits of musicians he liked. Around the late 1980s he made a short portrait of baritone saxophonist Cecil Payne that I thought would be nice to present here.
The clip is based on a (professionally filmed) solo by Payne of which I do not know the original source. The footage of Payne with Lionel Hampton in 1964 is from this clip, filmed by Otto himself, whereas the source for the 1979 footage is unidentified again.
From the late 1950s on – as soon as he could afford the equipment – my friend Otto carried a camera when he went to a concert. Some of his early clips survive, most of them are silent though. One exception is the footage from a concert concert that Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra gave on July 24, 1964 at the Casino in the small french town of Divonne-les-Bains, 17 kilometers from Geneva on the other side of the swiss-french border.
On this occasion Otto filmed a part of the concert and had a tape machine running at the same time. Someone also took photos to which Otto had access – or maybe he made them himself. The clip I am presenting you here is a version that Otto himself edited sometime in the late 1980s. So fasten your seat belts and start the time machine full throttle. Be spiraled through the – sort of yellowish – mists of time and wake up in a little concert hall, where the Hampton band plays “Broadway”. And look there: Cecil Payne gets some bars, and so does trumpeter Martin Banks!