When Verve producer Norman Granz brought Lionel Hampton and Oscar Peterson together for the first time in 1953, he fostered one of the great collaborations in the august history of the label. The two laid down some of the most memorable small-group recordings in all of jazz over the space of two years, and you'll find the COMPLETE sessions here, over six hours of music, most of it on CD for the first time! This sumptuous 5-CD package includes a 50-page booklet, a specially designed 19" x 28*1/2*" poster and more goodies, plus two unreleased tracks.
This five-CD set might begin with sultry, quavering vibraphone and delicately struck piano notes, but the temperature stays low for only the briefest of time. For the rest of the set, the temperature is high and the groove is on. Vibraphonist Lionel Hampton and pianist Oscar Peterson joined arms in the studio fewer than 10 times between 1953 and 1954 to cut the 15 or so records that comprise this set. They were an in-studio band exclusively, never unleashing their alchemy on audiences, perhaps because Hampton didn't need to--at least in a material sense. From historical and aesthetic points of view, it's a shame Peterson and Hampton didn't take this unit to the stage. Buddy Rich
, who drums on all the sessions, is monstrous, playing wistfully along on "These Foolish Nights" and then blazing through "Flying Home," emphasizing how potent a vibes-fronted band could be in the postbop days of the early 1950s. These years were also the historical launching point for the most successful band ever to feature vibes and piano, the Modern Jazz Quartet
. And maybe Hamp was looking to blast off, too, asserting himself in powerhouse swing sessions as the MJQ refined themselves into a restrained ensemble that made sense equally to classical and jazz fans--engaging a genuine dialogue over the differing paths this instrumental setup could take. In any event, Hamp blasted off, and OP shows himself primed for the speed and power. There are numerous spots across these tracks where the band is cruising so fast and playing so hard that you can hear both Peterson and Hampton grunting, not as Keith Jarrett
is wont to do, but as weightlifters do. Certainly Ray Brown
's ever-present bass is elemental to the force, but Rich's drumming is so intense and unyielding that the band is almost destined to play up to his force field. Given all that, there really isn't much here that will strike most listeners as visionary or revolutionary. Things cook fervently, as if the band is hell-bent on pressing core swing elements home in an era when the music's popularity was waning. --Andrew Bartlett