Take a powerhouse jazz lineup and let them go wild in a legendary club and you get a great record like Just Jazz: Live at the Blue Note by Lionel Hampton and the Golden Men of Jazz.
Hampton was a legend on the vibraphone and his equally famous backing band included bassist Milt Hinton, drummer Grady Tate, trombonist Al Grey, saxophonist James Moody, pianist Hank Jones, flugelhorn player Clark Terry, saxophonist Buddy Tate, and trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison. According to the liner notes of this album, the average age of the band in 1992 was 72. They were still killing it and teaching youngsters a way of jazz you rarely hear anymore.
The opener, “Corner Pocket,” is tune originally written for Count Basie and has great back-and-forth fun between Hampton, Grey, and Terry. The title track was written by Al Grey for the show and the whole band has a blast on it. Everyone gets their turn in the spotlight and Moody especially cooks with a great solo.
Tate sings lead vocals on “Body and Soul” while Hampton and Jones stroll along beside him with their respective instruments. “God Bless the Child” is an instrumental cover of the Billie Holiday classic with Hampton taking lead on it like the grooviest tour guide you’ve ever met.
“Ring Dem Bells” (originally a Duke Ellington song) is great fun as Hampton encourages each band member to shred a solo. Edison rips it and Jones’ solo is so good that it almost sounds like he’s goofing throughout it. The album ends with “Flyin’ Home” (apparently a favorite of Hampton’s to close a show) and has fabulous saxophone work throughout it and Hampton having a blast and laughing through parts of his solo.
This is a great jazz record, live or otherwise, and a worthy addition to your jazz collection (or any collection, really).
Keep your mind open.
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