As part of its Priceless Jazz Series, GRD has compiled performances from what was arguably Lionel Hampton's most artistically productive period, the '40s. Having gained national notoriety for his work with Benny Goodman, Hampton entered the studios of Decca to lay down many memorable tracks, 17 of which are on this album. Not only was Hampton at the peak of his vibraphone virtuosity, but the aggregations he put together around this time included some of the top young musicians of the day, many of whom were later to become jazz icons. The album's opener spotlights a call and response between Illinois Jacquet's tenor and Hampton's vibes on his signature tune "Flying Home." Dizzy Gillespie shows up for some upper atmosphere trumpeting on Charlie Parker's "Red Cross" from a 1945 Carnegie Hall concert. One of the definitive jive tunes, "Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop" makes use of Hampton's vocal talents. Duke Ellington's "Rockin' in Rhythm" gets extended play highlighting the Texas tenor of Arnett Cobb. A 25-year-old Charles Mingus is the bass player as Hampton leads his aggregation in a bop arrangement of "Mingus Fingers." Hampton also headlined some fine singers during this time. Dinah Washington does what was to become one of her more recognized tunes, "Evil Gal Blues," a tune that as much as any helped her gain renown as the Queen of the Blues. Little Jimmy Scott emotes with "I Wish I Knew." Because of his association with up-tempo material, Hampton's way with slow, romantic ballads is often overlooked. He remedies any doubt about his ability with his silky playing "Midnight Sun," "Easy to Love" and "Moonglow." The latter is a landmark duet with Wes Montgomery. A 1964 recording for the Impulse label, "Ring Dem Bells" features an all-star sextet of Hampton, Clark Terry, Ben Webster, Milt Hinton and Osie Johnson. This "priceless" collection represents an excellent crosscut of Lionel Hampton's recorded material during one of the most productive stages of a very long career, most of which has been spent among the upper echelons of jazz music.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan