Legends by Yussuf J. Simmonds
Some Big Band Leaders
LIONEL HAMPTON and QUINCY JONES (the Lion and ‘Q’)
Part Two LIONEL HAMPTON “Hamp, the Lion of Jazz”
When the history of jazz is written, Lionel Hampton is listed among the great jazz musicians of all time. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, in April 1908, Hampton ranks among the who’s-who of jazz musicians along with Charlie Parker, Ramsey Lewis, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Wynton Marsalis and a host of jazz greats – individuals and band leaders. He was a vibraphonist, pianist, percussionist, bandleader and actor.
After his family moved to Chicago, Illinois, young Hampton became a member of a boys’ club (because of racial segregation, the Boy Scouts of America club was off limits), where he took xylophone lessons and also started playing drums which led to a part in the Chicago Defender Newsboys’ Band while still a teenager.
When Hampton turned 20, he moved to California and began playing drums and during that decade, Hampton played in several bands and made his recording debut with one of them, The Quality Serenaders. He also began practicing on the vibraphone and at the end of the decade, he teamed up with Louis Armstrong playing vibes on two songs. That began his career as a vibraphonist, and he became popular via the use of that instrument.
A few years later, Hampton studied music at the University of Southern California, and then formed his own orchestra before appearing in “Pennies From Heaven” along with Armstrong in 1936. That same year, he backed Billie Holiday with the Benny Goodman orchestra, and Goodman asked him to join his (Goodman) Trio, which included Teddy Wilson, and Gene Krupa. Along with Hampton, it expanded into a quartet becoming the first racially integrated jazz groups to record and play before wide audiences. Though a part of the quartet Hampton maintained a semblance of “own-ness,” recording with several different small groups as the Lionel Hampton Orchestra until 1940 when he severed ties completely with the quartet to form his own big band.
His own big band orchestra became popular during the 1940s and early 1950s. During that time, he recorded a number of signature hits and theme songs, and in 1944, he solidified a relationship with guitarist Billy Mackel who would perform and record with him almost continuously until the late 1970s.
Around 1945, Hampton developed a style that blended jazz with rhythm & blues, and while recording on Decca Records, his band included an A-list of Black performers including composer and bassist Charles Mingus; saxophonist Johnny Griffin; guitarist Wes Montgomery; vocalist Dinah Washington; trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Cat Anderson; and saxophonist Illinois Jacquet and Jerome Richardson.
In 1953, the Hampton band toured Europe and there he met many U.S. expatriates including a young Quincy Jones who assisted as arranger/trumpeter. Back in California, two years later, Hampton worked on The Benny Goodman Story, and recorded sessions with Stan Getz and Art Tatum in addition to sessions with his own big band. Periodically Hampton’s tours would take him to Europe continuously over the years. In one of his performances with Louis Armstrong and an Italian singer in 1968 at a music festival in Italy, his jazz performance scored big with Italian audiences, and it reached the attention of the Vatican. That same year, Hampton received a Papal Medal from Pope Paul VI.
However by the close of 1960s, Hampton’s group – and big bands in general – was in decline. His music too was in decline – what worked “yesterday” had become “dinosaurs” of the present. And as time went by, Hampton’s music still could not find a new niche though he kept trying, according to music watchers and big band historians.
A bit of nostalgia occurred in February 1984 (Black history month), when Hampton and his band played at the University of Idaho’s annual jazz festival and was renamed the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival the following year. This was followed two years later, when the university’s school of music was renamed for Hampton. It was the first university music school named for a jazz musician – the Lionel Hampton School of Music.
Despite advanced in age, Hampton continued to play and while in Paris in 1991, he suffered a stroke that led to a collapse on stage. That incident, combined with years of chronic arthritis, forced him to cut back drastically on performances. In 1992, he was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and he managed to play at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2001.
His personal life, for the most part remained private; Hampton was never associated publicly with any scandals. He had a strong interest in Judaism and raised money for Israel; he even composed a King David instrumental musical suite back in 1953, and performed it in Israel with the Boston Pops Orchestra. But later in life, Hampton adopted the Christian Scientist religion.
In business, Hampton’s wife, Gladys, was his manager throughout much of his career, leaving him to conduct music exclusively. Hampton was a Thirty-three degree Prince Hall freemason in New York. He and his wife were deeply involved in the construction of various public housing projects, and founded the Lionel Hampton Development Corporation that constructed the Lionel Hampton and the Gladys Hampton Houses in Harlem, New York in the 1960s, with the help of then Republican governor Nelson Rockefeller. Gladys Hampton also built another housing project called Hampton Hills in Newark, New Jersey.
Hampton was a staunch Republican and served as a delegate to several Republican National Conventions. He served as Vice-Chairman of the New York Republican County Committee for several years, and also was a member of the New York City Human Rights Commission. Hampton donated almost $300,000 to Republican campaigns and committees throughout his lifetime. He died in 2001.
“Music Impresario known as ‘Q'”
Quincy Delight Jones, Jr., known to his friends as “Q,” was born on Chicago’s South Side. When he was ten he moved, with his father and stepmother, to Bremerton, Washington, a suburb of Seattle. He first fell in love with music when he was in elementary school and tried nearly all the instruments in his school band before settling on the trumpet. While barely in his teens, Quincy befriended a local singer-pianist, only three years his senior. His name was Ray Charles. The two youths formed a combo, eventually landing small club and wedding gigs.
At 18, the young trumpeter won a scholarship to Berklee College of Music in Boston, but dropped out abruptly when he received an offer to go on the road with bandleader Lionel Hampton. The stint with Hampton led to work as a freelance arranger. Jones settled in New York, where, throughout the 1950s, he wrote charts for Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dinah Washington, Cannonball Adderley and his old friend Ray Charles.
By 1956, Jones was performing as a trumpeter and music director with the Dizzy Gillespie band on a State Department-sponsored tour of the Middle East and South America. Shortly after his return, he recorded his first albums as a bandleader in his own right for ABC Paramount Records.
In 1957, Jones settled in Paris where he studied composition with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen, and worked as a music director for Barclay Disques, Mercury Records’ French distributor. As musical director of Harold Arlen’s jazz musical Free and Easy, Jones took to the road again. A European tour closed in Paris in February, 1960. With musicians from the Arlen show, Jones formed his own big band, with 18 artists–plus their families–in tow. European and American concerts met enthusiastic audiences and sparkling reviews, but concert earnings could not support a band of this size and the band dissolved, leaving its leader deeply in debt.
After a personal loan from Mercury Records head Irving Green helped resolve his financial difficulties, Jones went to work in New York as music director for the label. In 1964, he was named a vice-president of Mercury Records, the first African-American to hold such an executive position in a white-owned record company.
In that same year, Jones turned his attention to another musical area that had long been closed to blacks–the world of film scores. At the invitation of director Sidney Lumet, he composed the music for The Pawnbroker. It was the first of his 33 major motion picture scores.
Following the success of The Pawnbroker Jones left Mercury Records and moved to Los Angeles. After his score for The Slender Thread, starring Sidney Poitier, he was in constant demand as a composer. His film credits in the next five years included Walk Don’t Run, In Cold Blood, In the Heat of the Night, A Dandy in Aspic, MacKenna’s Gold, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, The Lost Man, Cactus Flower, and The Getaway. To date he has written scores for 33 major motion pictures.
For television, Quincy wrote the theme music for Ironside (the first synthesizer-based TV theme song), Sanford and Son, and The Bill Cosby Show. The 1960s and ’70s were also years of social activism for Jones. He was a major supporter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Operation Breadbasket, an effort to promote economic development in the inner cities. After Dr. King’s death, Jones served on the board of Rev. Jesse Jackson’s People United to Save Humanity (PUSH).
An ongoing concern throughout Jones’s career has been to foster appreciation of African-American music and culture. To this end, he helped form IBAM (the Institute for Black American Music). Proceeds from IBAM events were donated toward the establishment of a national library of African-American art and music. He is also one of the founders of the annual Black Arts Festival in Chicago. In 1973, Jones co-produced the CBS television special Duke Ellington, We Love You Madly. This program featured such performers as Sarah Vaughan, Aretha Franklin, Peggy Lee, Count Basie and Joe Williams performing Ellington’s music. Jones himself led the orchestra.
The film composer/activist/TV producer had not abandoned his career as a recording artist, however. From 1969 to 1981 he recorded a series of chartbusting Grammy-winning albums fusing a sophisticated jazz sensibility with R&B grooves and popular vocalists. These included Walking in Space, Gula Materi, Smackwater Jack, and Ndeda. 1973’s You’ve Got It Bad, Girl marked his recording debut as a singer. Its follow-up Body Heat sold over a million copies and stayed in the top five on the charts for six months.
This extraordinary streak almost came to a sudden end in August 1974, when Jones suffered a near-fatal cerebral aneurysm–the bursting of blood vessels leading to the brain. After two delicate operations, and six months of recuperation, Jones was back at work with his dedication renewed. The albums Mellow Madness, I Heard That and The Dude finished out his contract with A&M records as a performer, but new challenges lay just ahead.
Jones went back into the studio to produce Michael Jackson’s first solo album Off the Wall. Eight million copies were sold, making Jackson an international superstar and Jones the most sought-after record producer in Hollywood. The pair teamed again in 1982 to make Thriller. It became the best selling album of all time, selling millions of copies around the globe and spawning an unprecedented six Top Ten singles, including “Billie Jean,” “Beat It” and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.”
His debut as a filmmaker occurred in 1985 when he co-produced Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The film won eleven Oscar nominations and introduced Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey to movie audiences.
In 1993, Jones and David Salzman staged the concert spectacular “An American Reunion” to celebrate the inauguration of President Bill Clinton. The two impresarios decided to form a permanent partnership called Quincy Jones/David Salzman Entertainment (QDE). a co-venture with Time-Warner, Inc.
The company, in which Jones serves as co-CEO and chairman, encompasses multi-media programming for current and future technologies, including theatrical motion pictures and television. QDE also publishes Vibe magazine and produced the popular NBC-TV series Fresh Prince of Bel Air. At the same time, Jones runs his own record label, Qwest Records and is Chairman and CEO of Qwest Broadcasting, one of the largest minority-owned broadcasting companies in the United States. He has continued to produce hit records, including Back on the Block and Q’s Jook Joint.
The all-time most nominated Grammy artist, with a total of 79 nominations and 27 awards, Jones has also received an Emmy Award, seven Oscar nominations, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. In addition to Thriller, He is best known as the producer and conductor of the charity song “We Are the World”.
At the 2008 BET Awards, Quincy was presented with the Humanitarian Award. Jones and Ray Charles were lifelong friends since they were teenagers and in the 2004-movie, “Ray,” he was played by Larenz Tate. His life and career were chronicled in 1990 in the critically acclaimed Warner Bros. film Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones. In 2001, he published Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones.
In 1968, Jones was one of the first African-Americans to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song and then for Best Original Score for “In Cold Blood.” In 1971, he was the first African American to be named musical director of the Academy Awards ceremony and he won the Academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1995. He is tied with sound designer Willie D. Burton as the most Oscar-nominated African American, each of them having seven nominations.