Hampton, Lionel

Hampton, Lionel, 1908?–2002, African-American vibraphonist and bandleader, b. Louisville, Ky. When his family moved to Chicago c.1916, the young Hampton began playing drums in a newsboys' band. He moved to Los Angeles as a teenager and became a drummer in saxophonist Les Hite's band. Encouraged by Louis Armstrong, he soon learned the vibraphone and quickly became the instrument's leading jazz exponent, acclaimed early for his solos on Armstrong's 1930 recording of the now-classic “Memories of You.” As a member of the Benny Goodman Quartet, Hampton toured from 1936 to 1940, when he formed a big band of his own. His ensemble included such luminaries as Clifford Brown, Betty Carter, and Quincy Jones in its ranks. Known for his harmonic and rhythmic sophistication and his dynamic showmanship, Hampton often moved from vibes to drums to two-fingered piano, leading his group not only in the performance of swing, but in bop and rhythm and blues as well. He toured internationally into the 1990s, frequently leading small jazz groups.

See his autobiography (1989).

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