Originally a double vinyl two-fer for the Buddah label, Half Note reissues on one CD this historic concert commemorating not only Hampton's 50th year of performing, but his 70th birthday. Hampton, on vibes only, is caught in a variety of settings from small ensemble to big band, playing many of the most famous tunes in his career. The sound quality is a bit hollow, no doubt due to the analog-to-digital age difference. Tenor saxophonist Arnett Cobb leads off this loaded batting order on a rendition of "On the Sunny Side of the Street" with the full-blown big band behind him. Hamp sings a chorus or two of the lyric. Then the some 17-piece orchestra goes to a blowing session jam, powered by the great piano drive of Ray Bryant, on the roaring "Hamp's the Champ." A most disconcerting steely, glissandoed chordal solo by guitarist Billy Mackel leads to smoother efforts by trumpeters Jimmy Maxwell and Joe Newman, trombonists Eddie Bert and Bennie Powell; the horns then chime in, setting up a trumpet duel including Doc Cheatham and led by the irrepressible Cat Anderson, who floors 'em all with his typical high-end antics. Hamp gets the spotlight on a nicely swung "Stomping at the Savoy," and a most happy take of the flagwaver "Flying Home" is set off by the clarinet of Bob Wilber and flute of Earle Warren. Baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams and Cobb get in their more-than-two-cent solos. Bryant goes to town on "Hamp's Boogie Woogie" prior to the leader's hey-bop-a-rebop call and response with the audience. Then pianist Teddy Wilson gets a cameo on the delicate to rip-snorting "Tea for Two," with the incidental horns only playing a little at the end. The rest of the concert is small-band music for featured friends of Hamp. Cobb blows on an easy, bluesy "I'm Confessin'" with Hamp's la-la-la vocal refrains. Vibes-led melody, with Bryant's Oscar Peterson-like arpeggios, flexes its lean muscle on the ballad "Misty," and the final three selections feature Wilber's deep, throaty, lyrical, deft clarinet on the hard-swinging "Avalon," the ballad take of "More Than You Know," and the getting-down-to-business finale "Runnin' Wild." Perusing the personnel list, from the aforementioned stars to others such as drummer Panama Francis (consistently strong throughout) to cats like bassist Chubby Jackson, saxophonists Charles McPherson and Paul Moen, one realizes the immense influence Hampton has had on the history of jazz. Over 75+ minutes, this recording is a document of his accomplishments that can be heard in one satisfying sitting.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2