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From Blakey to Brown, Como to Costa, Eckstine to Eldridge, Galbraith to Garner, Harris to Hines, Horne to Hyman, Jamal to Jefferson, Kelly to Klook; Mancini to Marmarosa, May to Mitchell, Negri to Nestico, Parlan to Ponder, Reed to Ruther, Strayhorn to Sullivan, Turk to Turrentine, Wade to Williams… the forthcoming publication Treasury of Pittsburgh Jazz Connections by Dr. Nelson Harrison and Dr. Ralph Proctor, Jr. will document the legacy of one of the world’s greatest jazz capitals.

 

Do you want to know who Dizzy Gillespie  idolized? Did you ever wonder who inspired Kenny Clarke and Art Blakey? Who was the pianist that mentored Monk, Bud Powell, Tad Dameron, Elmo Hope, Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme? Who was Art Tatum’s idol and Nat Cole’s mentor? What musical quartet pioneered the concept adopted later by the Modern Jazz Quartet? Were you ever curious to know who taught saxophone to Stanley Turrentine or who taught piano to Ahmad Jamal? What community music school trained Robert McFerrin, Sr. for his history-making debut with the Metropolitan Opera? What virtually unknown pianist was a significant influence on young John Coltrane, Shirley Scott, McCoy Tyner, Bobby Timmons and Ray Bryant when he moved to Philadelphia from Pittsburgh in the 1940s?  Would you be surprised to know that Erroll Garner attended classes at the Julliard School of Music in New York and was at the top of his class in writing and arranging proficiency?

 

Some answers  can be gleaned from the postings on the Pittsburgh Jazz Network.

 

For almost 100 years the Pittsburgh region has been a metacenter of jazz originality that is second to no other in the history of jazz.  One of the best kept secrets in jazz folklore, the Pittsburgh Jazz Legacy has heretofore remained mythical.  We have dubbed it “the greatest story never told” since it has not been represented in writing before now in such a way as to be accessible to anyone seeking to know more about it.  When it was happening, little did we know how priceless the memories would become when the times were gone.

 

Today jazz is still king in Pittsburgh, with events, performances and activities happening all the time. The Pittsburgh Jazz Network is dedicated to celebrating and showcasing the places, artists and fans that carry on the legacy of Pittsburgh's jazz heritage.

 

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Duke Ellington is first African-American and the first musician to solo on U.S. circulating coin

    MARY LOU WILLIAMS     

            INTERVIEW

       In Her Own Words

Jeannette native Slide Hampton, eminent jazz trombonist, composer and arranger, dies at 89

Jeannette native Slide Hampton, eminent jazz trombonist, composer and arranger, dies at 89

Legendary jazz trombonist and bandleader Slide Hampton walked onstage at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in Pittsburgh on the night of Dec. 3 and shared a bit of advice with the music fans in attendance. 

"Hang onto your hats," he smiled. 

With that, the 13-piece JazzMasters big band was off on a high-flying mission — complete with thrills and chills but nary a spill — to reimagine the music of Dizzy Gillespie.

It was only one of the many nights Mr. Hampton, a native of Jeannette, brought his wildly imaginative riffs, interludes and shout choruses, along with his deft handling of quirky rhythms and occasional dissonance to Pittsburgh over the years.

A virtuoso jazz trombonist and as a Grammy Award-winning composer and musical arranger, Mr. Hampton died Thursday at his home in Orange, N.J. He was 89.

Mr. Hampton spent his entire life in music, beginning as a singer and dancer with a family band that included his parents and most of his 11 brothers and sisters after they moved to Indianapolis. He began playing the trombone at age 12.

Even though he was right-handed, he played the trombone left-handed because the first trombone he received as a child was configured that way. His sisters gave him the nickname of Slide.

“I was hearing music every day from the time that I was born,” he said in a 2007 interview with the National Endowment for the Arts, “so I knew right away that my life would be in music.”

The Hampton family band traveled throughout the Midwest and appeared at New York’s Carnegie Hall, Apollo Theater and Savoy Ballroom in the 1940s. Inspired by the bebop generation of jazz musicians, including trumpeter Gillespie and trombonist J.J. Johnson, who was also from Indianapolis, Mr. Hampton embarked on an independent musical career in his late teens.

Although he began playing the trombone begrudgingly — “I only did it because the band needed a trombone, and I was the youngest,” he said — Mr. Hampton was soon praised for his mellow tone and for his dexterity on the unwieldy instrument, which requires the use of a long metal slide to change notes.

“It has to use the beauty of its sound to make a point,” he told the New York Times in 1982. “Playing a trombone makes you realize that you’re going to have to depend on other people.”

Musicians recognized Mr. Hampton’s abilities as a trombonist, composer and arranger, and he worked for many notable bandleaders in the 1950s and early 1960s, including Lionel Hampton (no relation), Maynard Ferguson, Art Blakey, Max Roach and Gillespie. He also began to lead his own groups in clubs and recording studios.

In 1968, after touring Europe as a member of Woody Herman’s band, Mr. Hampton decided to stay. He lived in Paris for several years, working with European and expatriate American musicians and absorbing other styles of music, including Brazilian bossa nova and the classics.

“There is no way I’m going to tell you I don’t have a lot to learn from classical music,” he told the Houston Chronicle in 1992. “I listen to all the classical composers, from Bach and Beethoven to Stravinsky and Bartok. I’m looking ‘inside’ the music, to the musical and spiritual aspects.”

Mr. Hampton returned to the United States in 1977 with a renewed sense of purpose. He organized groups that emphasized the rich, brassy sound of the trombone, with as many as 14 trombones playing at a time. He developed a flair for performing and arranging Brazilian music.

He rejoined Gillespie’s band, serving as musical director, garnered critical acclaim for his own recordings and became widely lauded as one of the foremost trombonists of his time. Jazz critic Gary Giddins, writing in the Village Voice in 1990, called Mr. Hampton “perhaps the most underrated bebop virtuoso soloist alive.”

He practiced the trombone four to five hours a day, all the while continuing to write original compositions and musical arrangements.

In an interview with the Post-Gazette before that 1993 show, Mr. Hampton said his goal was to interpret the music of his predecessors, not repeat it.

"I think the thing that's important as far as the music that came before is to have an influence from that music that's obvious in what you do," he said. “But just an influence. Not a copy. Their purpose in making the music was so that it would influence people after them to do something of their own."

He found that influence listening to the big bands.

Big bands produce "a very high level of energy," he said. "You feel it physically. You actually feel it. It's not just a matter of listening to it. And that's actually what we want to achieve with this ensemble.”

In September 2000, he was back at in town at a North Side studio recording a Christmas album with legendary Nancy Wilson and members of the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Star Band, which also performed shows at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild.

In 2001, he participated in an open jam session marking the first jazz festival at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Laurel Highlands.

And in 2002, he was among the class inducted into the Pittsburgh Jazz Society's Jazz Hall of Fame.

Mr. Hampton won his first Grammy for his arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “Cotton Tail” on singer Dee Dee Bridgewater’s 1997 album, “Dear Ella.” He won another Grammy, for best instrumental composition, for “Past Present & Future,” an original work featured on a 2004 recording by the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.

“All my stuff is by inspiration, not by theory or even experience,” Mr. Hampton told Newark’s Star-Ledger newspaper in 2005. “I just write what I’m inspired to write, let it go wherever it goes.”

Locksley Wellington Hampton was born April 21, 1932. He was in his early teens when his family band played at Carnegie Hall.

Over the years, Mr. Hampton taught at several colleges, including Harvard, the University of Massachusetts and DePaul University in Chicago. During the early 1990s, he conducted master classes at Slippery Rock University and Duquesne University.

He became a mentor to countless younger musicians, especially trombonists. In 2005, he was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, the country’s highest official honor for jazz musicians.

His wife of more than 50 years, the former Althea Gardner, died in 2006. A son, Gregory Hampton, died in 2019. Survivors include three children, Lamont Hampton of Nashville, Locksley Hampton of Wilmington, N.C., and Jacquelyn Hampton of Atlanta; five grandchildren; and numerous great-grandchildren.

First Published November 23, 2021, 11:35pm

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Slide Hampton 1932 – 2021

One of the most respected—and last surviving—trombonists of the bop era, he was also a skilled arranger and composer


Slide Hampton at Baruch College, New York, November 1995 Slide Hampton at Baruch College, New York, November 1995 (photo: Alan Nahigian)

Slide Hampton, a trombonist, composer, and arranger who was considered a giant of all three crafts, died November 18 at his home in Orange, New Jersey. He was 89.

His death was announced on social media by his nephew, jazz trumpeter Pharez Whitted. Cause of death has not been disclosed.

One of the last surviving trombonists of the bebop era, Hampton was also one of the most respected. He was playing professionally from the age of 12, graduating from his family band to Lionel Hampton’s (no relation), then to Maynard Ferguson’s, where he first demonstrated his gifts as an arranger. From there, his profile blossomed. Hampton would play and/or write for a vast array of top-shelf jazz musicians, including Melba Liston, Charles Mingus, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Herman, Dexter Gordon, McCoy Tyner, Art Blakey, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and dozens of others.

Hampton was also a successful leader in his own right. He formed an octet in the late 1950s that was his working unit through the early 1960s, followed by a variety of ensembles ranging from quartet to big band. He was particularly intrigued by the possibilities of multi-trombone combos, culminating in Slide Hampton’s World of Trombones: a project that grouped Hampton with eight of his colleagues and a rhythm section (also presenting him a formidable challenge in his work as an arranger). He was named an NEA Jazz Master in 2005 and received the Jazz Foundation of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this year.

In addition to his accomplishments as a jazz musician, Hampton was also in high demand in the world of R&B. Early in his career he worked with Buddy Johnson’s jump band. In the 1960s he was a musical director first for Lloyd Price, then for Motown Records artists Stevie Wonder and the Four Tops; he later performed with vocalist Diana Ross. As long as it was music, Hampton was happy to be a part of it.

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“It’s very important for people to know what the real purpose of music is,” Hampton remarked to interviewer Bob Bernotas in 2000. “They think that music often is just for their entertainment.… Without music and without art we’d really be in trouble on this planet. We’re in enough trouble as it is, but it’s nothing like it would be, though! Music is very, very therapeutic, very healthy for people.”

Locksley Wellington Hampton was born April 21, 1932 in Jeannette, Pennsylvania, to Clarke “Deacon” Hampton, a saxophonist, and the former Laura Burford, a pianist. He was the youngest of 12 children around whom the parents formed a family band. The Hamptons moved to Indianapolis in 1938, making it their home base.

Locksley had the trombone chosen for him by his parents, since they needed a trombonist in the band; they started him on it as soon as his arms were long enough for the part of the instrument that gave him his lifelong nickname. But although he was naturally right-handed, his parents gave him a left-handed trombone—which was what he continued to play for the next 70 years. He joined the Hampton Family Band at age 12, debuting at a Carnegie Hall performance in 1944. A few years later he proceeded to an offshoot band led by his eldest brother, Clarke Jr. “Duke.”

Entranced by New York from his appearance there with the family, Slide set his sights on the city. He finally got there when he joined Buddy Johnson’s band in the early 1950s. By 1958 he had moved on to the Lionel Hampton Orchestra—albeit only briefly, before trumpeter Maynard Ferguson hired him away for his own big band. It was with Ferguson that he came into his own as an arranger, writing charts whose harmonies were influenced by the three-horn lineup of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.

Given his first chance to lead a recording session with 1959’s Slide Hampton and His Horn of Plenty, Hampton doubled down on the multiple-horns concept: He formed an octet that included two trumpets (Freddie Hubbard and Booker Little), a baritone horn (Bernard McKinney), and tenor (George Coleman) and baritone saxophone (Jay Cameron) along with a rhythm section. He kept the band together, occasionally augmenting it with a larger rhythm section, for several recordings and worldwide tours until he went to work for Price and Motown in the mid-’60s.

Joining Woody Herman’s orchestra for a European tour in 1968, Hampton opted to stay on the continent when he discovered its denser and more lucrative support system for jazz. He lived in Paris for four years, then in Germany for five more, working regularly and even collaborating with fellow expats like Kenny Clarke and Dexter Gordon.

Seeing broadened opportunities for jazz musicians in the States, Hampton returned to New York in 1977, again working with Gordon on the latter’s first studio album since his own homecoming, Sophisticated Giant. (The album’s arrangements, for 11-piece band, are sometimes regarded as Hampton’s finest achievement.) Shortly thereafter, Hampton made a splash under his own name with the creation of his World of Trombones band of nine trombones, piano, bass, and drums.

Hampton also became a jazz educator during this period. He served as an artist in residence at Harvard University in 1981, moving from there to the University of Massachusetts, DePaul University, and Indiana University (where he was hired by his onetime high-school classmate David Baker). He continued working as both a leader and a freelancer, and with increasing frequency as an arranger. In the late 1980s he found an important new outlet for both playing and writing when he joined Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nation Orchestra, eventually becoming its musical director. Following Gillespie’s death in 1993, Hampton took the same role in the alumni ensemble the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band.

Late in his career, Hampton became a two-time Grammy winner—both times as an arranger. He won in 1998 for a live performance of “Cotton Tail” by Dee Dee Bridgewater, then again in 2005 for the writing on the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra’s recording The Way: Music of Slide Hampton.

Hampton is survived by two sons, Locksley Jr. and Lamont, and a daughter, Jacquelyn (all from a previous marriage to Althea Gardner that ended in divorce); three grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.


MICHAEL J. WEST

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.

In Memoriam: Slide Hampton, 1932–2021

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Slide Hampton: Rest in peace.

(Photo: Mark Sheldon)

Slide Hampton, the distinguished jazz trombonist, composer and arranger, passed away Nov. 18. He was 89.

Born Locksley Wellington Hampton in Pennsylvania, he moved with his family to Indianapolis, where he made a name for himself on the city’s famed Indiana Avenue, a street where jazz clubs of the day nurtured the likes of Wes Montgomery, Freddie Hubbard, David Baker, fellow trombonist J.J. Johnson and others.

He started playing in his family’s band, The Duke Hampton Band, at age 12. That was the launching pad for a career that took him around the world playing with everyone from Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie and Maynard Ferguson to Art Blakey, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, Max Roach, Barry Harris and more.

In 1960, he formed his own octet modeled after Miles Davis’, as he told DownBeat in a Jan. 19, 1961, interview. “Over the years, I have listened to a number of bands of different sizes that I liked,” Hampton said. “I suppose the Miles Davis Octet was a great influence on the type of should I would like to hear in my own group. For this group, I tried to get an instrumentation which would be between all the other sizes and yet get a little of each of these sounds.”

By 1962, he had solidified the band as the Slide Hampton Octet, which included Hubbard, George Coleman and Booker Little, touring the world and recording for several labels.

After touring with Woody Herman in 1968, Hampton remained in Europe, connecting with a community of expat jazz musicians including Art Farmer and Dexter Gordon. He returned to the U.S. in the late 1970s, teaching at a variety of universities and continuing his arranging and composing work and creating his World Of Trombones album, the ultimate salute to the trombone that included nine top-notch trombonists and a rhythm section.

Hampton won two Grammy Awards, the first in 1998 for Best Jazz Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for his arrangement of “Cotton Tail” performed by Dee Dee Bridgewater; the second in 2005 for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for The Way: Music Of Slide Hampton, The Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.

In 2005, Hampton was named an NEA Jazz Master. DB

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