Lionel Hampton: Flying Home


Flying Home


Lionel Hampton (vibes)


The Lionel Hampton Quintet (Verve 314-589-100-2)

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Lionel Hampton (vibes), Buddy DeFranco (clarinet), Oscar Peterson (piano), Ray Brown (bass), Buddy Rich (drums).

Composed by Lionel Hampton & Benny Goodman


Recorded: New York, April 13, 1954


Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

"Flying Home" was Lionel Hampton's signature tune, composed on his first-ever plane trip in 1939, as he, Benny Goodman and the rest of B.G.'s band flew one morning from L.A. to that night's gig at Atlantic City's Steel Pier. Years later, Hampton claimed to have cashed the thousandth royalty check for the song in 1964. The 1942 big band version featuring Illinois Jacquet was Hamp's big hit, but this intoxicating 17-minute track is his longest recorded version.

Hamp solos first after his and DeFranco's unison romp through the theme. The vibist's trademark metallic, chime-like tone and percussive attack are in full evidence here, as he moves from short repeated phrases to more intense, lengthier lines. By now the tempo has moved from medium to up, and Brown and Rich are in a tight, compelling groove, as Peterson comps animatedly. DeFranco launches a technically assured, highly expressive solo, the heat of it belying as usual the notion that he was a coolly unemotional player. The clarinetist is riffing la Hampton when not ripping off winding runs, and he also brings to mind Benny Goodman throughout his improv. Peterson follows with a bluesy relentlessness and joyful single-note lines. The tireless Hampton returns at about the 10-minute mark with a second, even more impressive solo, his phrasing and momentum simply mesmerizing. DeFranco joins Hamp for some spirited riffing as Rich starts hammering away even more earnestly than before. DeFranco soars through his own second solo at this point, with Hamp's and Rich's enthusiastic encouragement, the leader's vocal exclamations adding to the excitement. Hamp executes a spectacular run around 16 minutes in, as the band "flies home" to a satisfyingly smooth landing back on terra firma. You'd be hard pressed to find another 17-minute piece that flies by more quickly and entertainingly than this one.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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