All vibraphonists owe a debt of gratitude to Lionel Hampton for paving the way in traditional and modern jazz, pioneering the instrument as more than in an accompanist role or being heard only in lounges. In his heyday, Teddy Charles was a prime example of taking Hampton's approach to a different level, eventually in hard and post-bop, but here he takes swing era tunes of Hamp's, changing up or editing their melodic structures with a quartet featuring pianist Hank Jones, and a larger ensemble with horn complement. This album as reissued on CD is known as Salute to Hamp and subtitled "The Vibraphone Players of Bethlehem, Vol. 1" as issued originally on the Bethlehem label, reissued by Avenue Jazz. It showcases Charles, not so much in an evolutionary fashion, but as a complete performer and bandleader. He is a singularly unique jazzman who anyone can appreciate, and is quite able to hold interest of listeners beyond conventional wisdom of what well-worn standards can sound like with just a little inspiration and soul. Typical tunes like "Air Mail Special" and "Flying Home" from Hampton's book are given a minor twist or modified turn with the hot horns of trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims, and trumpeter Art Farmer included. The flugelhornist leads out on a heartfelt rendition of "Stardust" wit the other horns laying back in keen observance. A slimmed down duet between Charles and bassist Addison Farmer on the ballad "He's Gone Again" shows the ultimate restraint, while the classy four-piece combo fronted by Jones and Charles swing easily during "On the Sunny Side of the Street" as if it is second nature. A playful fourteenth run through of "Stompin' at the Savoy" is included as well as the main take, the former more true to the original melody line with the other straying off the path nicely. Charles wrote "Blue Hamp" as a 12-bar, vibes led, truly cool and nonchalant jam. There are also two versions of "Jack the Bellboy," also credited in other issues of this album as "Jake the Bellboy." Either way it's a furious bopper for the trio of vibes, bass, and drums, with Jones in late, and the alternate third take with a different approach to the bridge. Charles would leave the music business shortly after this date, to return briefly nearly three decades later. For jazz fans who may have missed a chance to hear a truly great musician in his prime, buy this recording and do some catching up.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos