Lionel Leo Hampton was born on April 20, 1908 in Louisville, Kentucky and was raised by his grandmother. The multi-instrumentalist spent his early childhood first in Birmingham, Alabama and then in Kenosha, Wisconsin before his family settled in Chicago by the time he was ten. During his teen years he took up the xylophone, fife and drums. It was drums that kicked started his career in music playing with the Chicago Defender Newsboy’s Band.
Towards the end of the Roaring Twenties Hampton moved to California playing with the Dixieland Blues-Blowers, the Les Hite band and recording with The Quality Serenaders. But it was in 1930 when Louis Armstrong invited Hampton to play vibes during one of his California dates that his career as a vibraphonist and the popularity of the instrument began. But it was later that his star would shine when Johnny Hammond brought Benny Goodman to see Hampton play and invited him to join his group.
Over the course of his lifetime Lionel Hampton led his own orchestras, played with Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa, Wes Montgomery, Illinois Jacquet, Dinah Washington Arnett Cobb, Charlie Parker, Quincy Jones, Buddy Rich, Slam Stewart and the list of jazz luminaries is to numerous.
Hampton, a vibraphonist, pianist, percussionist, bandleader and actor was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame in 1992, received the Papal Medal from Pope Paul VI, has toured and performed around the world, had his vibraphone of 15 years placed in the National Museum of American History and the University of Idaho renamed their music school for Hampton, becoming the first university to do so for a jazz musician.
One of the first jazz pioneers of the vibes and a giant whose career spanned over six decades, Lionel Hampton passed away of heart failure at the age of 94 on August 31, 2002.
More Posts: vibraphone
Karl Hanns Berger was born March 30, 1935 in Heidelberg, Germany and began playing piano when he was ten. By the time he reached young adulthood he had landed a job at Club 54 in his hometown as the house pianist and accompanied visiting American musicians such as Leo Wright, Lex Humphries and Don Ellis. During their stays he was able to learn the complexities of modern jazz.
Berger eventually picked up the vibraphone and in the early sixties became intrigued with free jazz. By 1965 he was a part of Don Cherry’s Paris-based quintet and the next year they came to New York to record Symphony For Improvisers on Blue Note. Staying in the U.S. Berger recorded his first album the following year.
Most of his output has been experimental in the free jazz circles playing with the likes of Carla Bley, Lee Konitz, John McLaughlin, Dave Holland, Sam Rivers, Pharoah Sanders, The Mingus Epitaph Orchestra and many others. From 1969 to 1975 Karl Berger continuously won the Down Beat critics poll for best jazz vibraphone player of the year.
In 1972 along with his friend and mentor Ornette Coleman, he founded the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, New York, which was geared toward encouraging young students to explore their own creative ideas instead of imposing traditional concepts upon them. With visiting educators like Jack DeJohnette, Sam Rivers, and Anthony Braxton amongst other prominent musicians the school flourished until the mid eighties when Berger decided to venture back into performing.
From 1985 on Berger has led a 28-piece big band, played festivals worldwide, recorded as a leader and sideman, extending his educator talents to teaching jazz and ensemble playing in Frankfurt, and chaired the Music Department at U Mass-Dartmouth.
The musicologist, composer, pianist and vibraphonist was directly influenced by Ornette Coleman and his playing eschews four-mallet technique with an understanding and ability to play any meter from standard time signatures to odd meters and polyrhythms based on core elements of swing and coherent melody. Karl Berger continues to pursue the range of his instrument through recording, performing and touring.
Bobby Hutcherson was born January 27, 1941 in Los Angeles, California and studied piano with his aunt as a child. Not enjoying the formality of the training he tinkered with it on his own, especially since he was already connected to jazz through a brother’s high school friendship with Dexter Gordon and a singing sister who later dated Eric Dolphy. But it was hearing Milt Jackson that made everything clicked for Hutcherson during his teen years, working until he saved up enough money to buy his own set of vibes.
He began studying with Dave Pike and playing local dances in a group led by his friend, bassist Herbie Lewis. Parlaying his local reputation into gigs with Curtis Amy and Charles Lloyd in 1960. And joined an ensemble led by Al Grey and Billy Mitchell. A year later he’s in New York at Birdland and ends up staying on the east coast as his reputation of his inventive four mallet playing spread.
Attracted foremost to more experimental free jazz and post-bop, he made early recordings in this style for Blue Note with Jackie McLean, Eric Dolphy, Andrew Hill, Granchan Moncur, but ironically his debut recording for the label in 1963, The Kicker, not released until 1999, demonstrated his background in hard bop and the blues.
His vibraphone playing is suggestive of the style of Milt Jackson in its free-flowing melodic nature, but his sense of harmony and group interaction is thoroughly modern. Easily one of jazz’s greatest vibraphonists, Bobby Hutcherson helped modernize the vibes by redefining what could be done with it — sonically, technically, melodically, and emotionally. In the process, he became one of the defining voices in the “new thing” portion of Blue Note’s glorious ’60s roster.
Throughout his career Hutcherson has performed or recorded with a who’s who list of avant-garde, free improvisation, modernist post-bop, straight-ahead, mainstream, fusion and bop jazz players on the scene, staying ever current in his message. As a leader he has recorded nearly four-dozen albums for Blue Note, Landmark, Columbia, Cadet, Timeless, Evidence, Atlantic and Verve. Vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson still maintains his reputation as one of the most advanced masters of his instrument.
More Posts: vibraphone
Milt Jackson was born Milton Jackson on January 1, 1923 in Detroit, Michigan. Discovered by Dizzy Gillespie and hired in 1946 for his sextet and also for his larger ensembles. He quickly acquired experience working with the most important figures in jazz of the era, including Woody Herman, Howard McGhee, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker.
In the Gillespie big band, Jackson fell into a pattern that led to the founding of the Modern Jazz Quartet. He was part of Gillespie’s small group swing tradition within a big band, consisting of pianist John Lewis, bassist Ray Brown and drummer Kenny Clarke. They would become a working group in their own right around 1950 and became the Milt Jackson Quartet but by the time Percy Heath replaced Ray Brown, in 1952 they became the Modern Jazz Quartet.
After some twenty years the MJQ disbanded in 1974 and Jackson pursued more money and his longed for improvisational freedom. The group reformed in 1981, however, and continued until 1993, after which Jackson toured alone, performing in various small combos, although agreeing to periodic MJQ reunions.
He recorded prolifically, his tunes, “Bluesology”, “Bags & Trane”, “The Late, Late Blues” and “Bag’s Groove” are jazz standards. He has recorded with J.J. Johnson, Roy McCurdy, B.B. King, John Coltrane, Wes Montgomery, Hank Mobley, Oscar Peterson, Stanley Turrentine, Don Sebesky, Cannonball Adderley and Ray Charles on the very short list.
A very expressive player, Bags, as he was affectionately known and referring to the bags under his eyes from staying up all night, differentiated himself from other vibraphonists in his attention to variations on harmonics and rhythm. He became one of the most significant vibist and was at the top of his game for 50 years playing bop, blues, and ballads with equal skill and sensitivity. Vibraphonist Milt Jackson, thought of as a bebop player but equally remembered for his cool swinging solos, left the jazz world on October 9, 1999 in Manhattan, New York.
More Posts: vibraphone
Matthias Lupri was born Matthias Albrecht Lupri on October 29, 1964 in Germany but grew up in Manhattan, Kansas and Alberta, Canada. Initially he played the drums, playing in blues, rock and country music bands as a teenager. In his early 20′s he studied music at Mount Royal College, where he heard Gary Burton’s recordings and became interested in jazz vibraphone music.
Lupri practiced the instrument for the next five years while on the road with rock bands as a drummer, and then enrolled at Berklee College of Music to study with Burton himself.
After graduating Matthias easily slid into the jazz circles in the U.S. and around the world. He has performed and recorded with Greg Osby, Chris Potter, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Mark Turner, Greg Hutchinson, Reuben Rogers, Rick Margitza and George Garzone among others and has been sought after on the national and international jazz festival circuit.
Vibraphonist Matthias Lupri’s has released six recordings as a leader that have charted in radio’s Top 40 Gavin, CMJ and Chart Magazine Canada, has been heard on the television show “Alias”, and was named as a rising artist on vibraphone twice in the Down Beat critics poll. He continues to perform, collaborate, record and tour.
More Posts: vibraphone