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Hampel, Gunter

Hampel, Gunter, vibraphone, multi-instrumentalist, composer; b. Gottingen, Germany, 31 August 1937. He is son to Hildegard Keck (born 21 June 1911, Gedern -Hessen, Germany) and Gotthard Hampel (born 10 February 1910, Sayda, Erzgebirge, Sachsen,Germany). His father was a great piano and violin-player, but the economics made him become a roofmaker. His father was also his first teacher (piano). His grandfather was a composer and multi-instrumentalist. He composed a lot of tunes, folk dances, Polkas, waltzes, etc.

Gunter had formal training on piano, vibraphone, recorder, and clarinet from 4 years old. Dr. Trompke was his first piano teacher. He studied vibraphone with Dr. Wolfgang Doering and with a player from the symphony-Orchestra and with every jazz musician who lived and passed through our town (Goettingen). They had a very active jazz scene, at least 3-4 concerts every week (it was a University town). Young students came to study and there were at least 100-150 active jazz musicians.

Gunter is mostly self-taught, especially when since he learned from listening the records and in some cases, seeing live performances. 

He began learning other reeds as well, and at age 17 began playing vibes. By his late teens he was leading his own groups, concentrating on vibes, but he continued his close study of the reeds, including all the saxophones. He studied all aspects of music, including theory and composition as well as his instruments.
He was drafted into the German army at age 19 in 1957. He studied Architectur at the University in Braunschweig 1958-1962.

By the early 60's he was playing around Europe with his own groups, mostly playing vibes.  A personal milestone of sorts happened in 1964 during the Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop's tour of  Europe.  Hampel was in Paris assisting the local promoter, and he put up Eric Dolphy in a house for a few days.  They jammed together for long periods of time, Hampel on vibes and Dolphy on his reeds, including of course his bass clarinet.  At Dolphy's suggestion they switched instruments for a while, and the American was impressed with Hampel's bass clarinet prowess.  (Hampel recalls that Dolphy also demonstrated a surprising skill at the vibes.)  Inspired by Dolphy's words of encouragement, Hampel developed his skill on bass clarinet, eventually arriving at his own original style.

He first saw singer Jeanne Lee (1939-2000) on a TV-performance with Ran Blake 1963 (J.E.Berendt-show on jazz in Germany). He met her at his recording session for ESP (Music from Europe) in 1966 in Holland. They fell in love in 1968.

Through the rest of the sixties, Hampel met several key artists who would play great roles in his future projects.  One was the Dutch reedman Willem Breuker, and another was saxophonist Marion Brown, with whom Hampel toured in 1968-69.  Perhaps most importantly, in 1966 he met singer/poet/future wife Jeanne Lee, who plays a vital role in Hampel's music to this day. These connections fell together in Hampel's first major musical statement, The 8th of July 1969, a recording featuring Breuker, Lee, Anthony Braxton, drummer Steve McCall,and bassist Arjen Gorter.  Hampel had moved inexorably toward a free form of expression and group interplay which reached a full flowering on The 8th of July.

Early on, Hampel elected to take full control of his work and founded his own label, Birth records.  His catalog on Birth (which begins with The 8th of July) is widely varied and includes a solo record (Dances), a duet for Hampel and synthesizer (Symphony No. 6), further work with Lee, Breuker and others (People Symphony), and even a duet recording with the flamenco guitarist Boulou Ferre (Espace).

In addition to his own projects, Hampel and his players were later employed by the composers Hanz Werner Henze and Krysztof Penderecki to play their music.  Both were initially inspired by the work Hampel was doing on The 8th of July and Dances and wrote with Hampel's aesthetic in mind.  With Henze, Hampel collaborated on the compositions, "so we wouldn't find ourselves in a cage form which we couldn't escape.  And he also used some of my pieces."

Hampel gained an important new ally and foil in 1971.  American clarinetist Perry Robinson, beginning a long-term association which has continued on and off ever since, joined Hampel and Lee for two recordings, Spirits and Out of New York.  His association with the German musician was solidified as he became a member of Hampel's Galaxie Dream Band.  This group, first assembled in 1973, features a regular family of players including Lee, Robinson, Marion Brown, saxophonist Mark Whitecage and various other reeds, strings and percussion.

With Jeanne Lee he had two children. Their son is Ruomi Lee Hampell (b. Sept 18th, 1974 in New York).  He has started to play drums (teacher: SteveMcCall) and is now studying at Hunter College (NYC) to become a filmmaker. He is an actor, poet, and writer, and performs with Gunter's groups: Next Generation and his German Music+Dance Company. He also is part of the Workshops+Concerts With And For Children as a teacher for poetry (Rap) and movements.

They teach the children, that music making comes from the body's movements. In China we will, besides their (phantastic) concerts at Jazz Festivals, clubs etc., they will also help the Chinese Cultural development with their Children Workshops (ages 6-13) to animate the Chinese communities to help building schools in way down yonder areas.

Ruomi also appears on Gunter's CDs The Higher Dimension and Concert With And For Children.
Their daughter, Cavana-Lee-Hampell (b. February 5, 1976 in Goettingen, Germany) is a singer and trumpet player, but so far has not followed up a musical career. She lives in Berlin,Germany

Bibliography:
Gunter Hampel: Gunter Hampel. Schriften, Publikationen, Interviews... [book]
H. Rossbach: Plattentest mit dem Gunter Hampel Quintett, in: Jazz Podium6 (Jun.1965)
Gunter Hampel: ober meine Musik, in: Sounds, 2/1967
Nat Hentoff: Gunter Hampel. An Introduction, in: Jazz & Pop, 9/7 (1970)
Gunter Hampel: Meine Musik, in: Jazz Podium (Sep.1970)
Werner Panke: Musik als gemeinschaftliches Erlebnis, in: Jazz Podium (Mar.1973)
Gunter Hampel: ober die Werte der Musik, in: Jazz Podium, (Jan.1975)
Gunter Hampel: Musik als Beruf, in: Jazz Podium (Feb.1975)
Hans Kumpf: Vom Spiel zur Improvisation, in: Jazz Podium, 25/7 (Jul.1976)
Dietrich J. Noll: Zur Improvisation im deutschen Free Jazz, 1977 [book]
Roberto Terlizzi & Francesco Martinelli & Stefano Archangeli: Jeanne Lee and Gunter Hampel, in: Coda, #164/165 (Feb.1979)
Bert Noglik: Jazz-Werkstatt International, 1981 [book]
Frans van Leeuwen & Ina Vroegindeweij: Gunter Hampel, in: Jazz Nu, 5/56 (Jun.1983)
Gunter Hampel: A Letter, in: Coda, #195 (Apr.1984)
Ekkehard Jost: Europas Jazz 1960-80, 1987 [book]
Robert Hicks: The World of Gunter Hampel, in: Coda, #237 (May/Jun.1991)
Robert Hicks: Riffs. Gunter Hampel, in: Down Beat, 59/2 (Feb.1992)
Peter Niklas Wilson: Gunter Hampel. Architekt der "Next Generation", in: Jazz Podium, 45/1 (Jan.1996)

Contact information:
GuntHampel@aol.com
http://www.gunterhampelmusic.de
Tel: Europe 011-49-(0)551- 3 18 71
P. Reis Strasse. 10
D 37075 Goettingen
Germany
Tel:USA   212-477-1695
211 East 11 Street, #2
New York City 10003

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