Slide Hampton and the World of Trombones
Spirit of the Horn
by Mark E. Gallo
Review date: July 2003
"Keeping the Blues Alive Award"|
Achievement for Blues on the Internet
Presented by The Blues Foundation
Assembling a cast of 13 trombonists poses logistics problems at the very least. That they squeezed into the Manchester Craftsman's Guild in Pittsburgh is impressive enough. That such glorious music resulted speaks to the brilliance of the charts and the art of the musicians. The first recording in 20 years of this remarkable ensemble, the aptly titled Spirit of the Horn celebrates the tonal qualities and possibilities of the horn. From the opening take on Ray Noble's classic "Cherokee," with Hampton trading licks with Bill Watrous, another of the giants of the trombone, the audience on hand for this superb concert surely knew they were in for a treat. Stevie Wonder's "All In Love Is Fair" is voiced superbly so that each of the soloists is buoyed by the large ensemble. Trombonist and producer Jay Ashby and guitarist and executive producer Marty Ashby are particularly impressive, as are Mr. Hampton and fellow bone player Isaac Smith and pianist Larry Willis. The next five pieces are strung together as a Tribute Suite, with sections dedicated to JJ Johnson ("Lament"/"Basin Street Blues"), Charlie Parker ("April In Paris"), Lester Young ("Lester Leaps In" featuring the ensemble in cooking tandem work), John Coltrane ("Moments Notice") and Herbie Hancock ("Dolphin Dance"). The final three pieces ("Walkin' In Rhythm," "Maya," and Hampton's "Blues For Eric") were equally well received by the live audience and demonstrate the enduring esteem in which Slide Hampton is held by savvy jazz audiences. This is also proof positive for blues fans unaware of Telarc's jazz division, that the label has grown into one of the most important recording companies in America for good reason. Like the folks at the blues section, those who run Telarc jazz have determined to sign and record the most representative and exciting musicians of our times. Slide Hampton has been a major player on the scene for half a century. As a 70 year old man, he continues to have the chops and stamina to cut younger and lesser players routinely. This wonderful trombone ensemble, including guest artist Watrous, is first rate, but they all take a back seat to the master. Wonderful stuff, this.
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