|"Outrageous", according to my Webster's dictionary means, among other things, extravagant, fantastic, exceeding the limits of what is normal, not conventional or matter-of-fact.
On the basis of those definitions I would say that Lionel Hampton is one of the most outrageous talented men I have ever known. It is hard to believe that more than four decades have passed since he left Benny Goodman to organize his own first great orchestra: Even harder to compile a list of the incomparable gifted musicians who have passed through his ranks. As a talent scout, Hamp gave innumerable young musicians their first inspiration, their initial major showcase, before they look off on careers of their own.
Among the saxes, Dexter Gordon. Illinois Jacquet, Arnett Cobb, Marshall Royal and dozens more; on trumpets, Quincy Jones, Clifford Brown, Art Farmer and on and on; in the rhythm sections Charles Mingus, Milt Buckner et al; and that's not counting the singers, from ]oe Williams and Dinah Washington on up through the years.
The Hamp of the 1980s is a man of many parts: a superb musician who has never (ailed to move with the times; an astute businessman; a much honored figure in the academic world (he has been awarded six honorary doctorates); and a philanthropist whose good works have included the construction of low cost housing in areas where it was badly needed. But if there was ever any doubt that music has remained his first love, it was dispelled, for me at least, when I walked into a Hollywood studio to hear him take an all-star orchestra through some of the charts you will hear on this album.
Lionel's enthusiasm is as contagious as ever. The extent to which his taste has broadened can be deduced from the variety of arrangements you will hear on these two sides.
The opening track, Ko-Ko, is an ingenious moderation of the famous Charlie Parker combo recording cut in 1945. In Ray Knehnetsky's arrangement you will hear an extension of the original introduction, followed by Bird's solo written out (or unison saxes with brass punctuations. Hamp's solo maintains the up-tempo boppish spirit as does the greatly underrated Jack Kelso on alto. Knehnetsky is a promising Hollywood studio arranger, from Wilmington, Del.,: this was the first chart for Hampton's band.
The second cut, Wail for the cat, was composed and arranged by Roy Roman, who idolizes Cat Anderson, the veteran high note trumpet specialist who wailed over Hamp's brass section in the summer of 1942. The performance is high on excitement and rich in soloists: they are, in order, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Barry Ries on trumpet, Paul Moen on sax, Amos Hunt in that hands-over-mouth bit (yes, he actually is singing into his cupped hands); Lionel himself; Roy in a very feline passage; the great Wild Bill Davis on organ, then Hunt and Hamp closing it out. The admirable rhythm section on this tune includes Gary Mazzaroppi on bass, Richie Pratt on drums and Sammy Turner on percussion.
Lionel's admiration for Chick Corea led to the use of Chick's Tap Step in an ingenious treatment (arranged by Ray Knehnetsky) that blends the original character of the work with the spirit of big band jazz, 1980s style. The horn solos are by Barry Ries on trumpet and Paul Moen on tenor. - Leonard Feather