This is the first volume in a small series released during the 1990s by the Masters of Jazz label focusing upon the early adventures of vibraphonist, pianist, drummer, vocalist, and bandleader Lionel Hampton (1909-2002). While volumes two and three are solid, rewarding and fun, volume one is a veritable cauldron filled with great music including 13 outstanding rare jazz recordings from the very beginning of Hamp's lengthy career. These great sides remain quite uncommon and have seldom appeared on compact disc. Hampton made his first recordings as drummer and vocalist with Paul Howard's Quality Serenaders, a hot little group based in the Los Angeles area in 1929 and 1930, led by tenor saxophonist Paul Howard, with arrangements by Alex Hill or reedman Charlie Lawrence, and solid contributions from pianist Harvey Brooks. Also making his recording debut was trombonist and arranger Lawrence Brown, a marvelous improviser destined for decades of service in the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Hamp was already a dazzling performer, driving the band with expert drumming, invading the piano on "A New Kinda Blues," and singing -- sometimes scatting -- on "Moonlight Blues," "Stuff," "Cuttin' Up" and "California Swing." This is all quite different from the fully formed swing music that Hamp would start churning out during the late '30s. The rest of the material on this exciting collection traces Hamp's progress through the Les Hite Orchestra (where he worked with ex-Howard trumpeter George Orendorff backing Louis Armstrong's vocals), the Teddy Wilson band (where he and Benny Goodman backed vocalists Vera Lane [aka Helen Ward] and Redd Harper), and ending up sing over the vibes with the Benny Goodman Quartet. To summarize, the 23 tracks that make up this anthology add up to one hell of a beginning for Hamp's spectacular career as one of the primary movers and shakers in all of jazz music.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf