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Slide Hampton

From Family Band to NEA Jazz Master of Trombone, Arrangements, and Compositions
Jazz master Slide Hampton is a renowned trombonist, composer and arranger.  His is considered as one of the top jazz trombonists of all time.  Beginning his career at age 12 playing in his family's band Slide went on to become a a key member of the bands of Buddy Johnson, Lionel Hampton, Maynard Ferguson, and Woody Herman.  As a leader he formed the Slide Hampton Octet with Freddie Hubbard and George Coleman and later his World of Trombones which featured nine trombonists.  Hampton released 16 albums as a leader on Atlantic, Epic, Verve, Strand, Telarc, MCG Jazz and other labels. A technical master of slide and value trombone who practiced four to five hours a day, he is known for his distinctive “French horn” quality tone. As a trombonist Hampton has appeared on over 180 recordings including albums by Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Farmer, Dexter Gordon, Harold Betters, Diana Ross, George Benson and Oscar Peterson. Hampton also composed and arranged music for his own recordings and for Maynard Ferguson, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Grover Washington Jr, Woody Herman, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Nancy Wilson, McCoy Tyner and others. Among his most notable big bold brassy compositions and arrangements are “Frame For the Blues”, “The Fugue,” “Three Little Foxes,” “Slide's Derangement”, “A Day in Vienna” and “Cotton Tail”

Hampton won the Grammy Award for "Best Jazz Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists" in 1998 for his arrangement of "Cotton Tail" recorded Dee Dee Bridgewater.  He won a second Grammy in 2005 for "Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album" for his release ‘The Way”.   H
e was ranked at the top of critics and readers polls for several years by Downbeat and the Jazz Forum.  The Indianapolis Jazz Foundation inducted Slide Hampton into their Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Pittsburgh Jazz Society named him to the Pittsburgh Jazz Hall of Fame. The National Endowment for the Arts honored Slide Hampton naming him an NEA Jazz Master in 2005. 

“A charismatic figure, master arranger, and formidable trombonist, Hampton holds a place of distinction in the jazz tradition.” – NEA.

"He has a full and slightly foggy sound, warm and mellow even in the upper reaches of his range. And he manages to maintain an unerring articulation with no trace of percussive attack." Nate Chichen New York Times 

"Mr. Hampton is one of jazz's finest living arrangers" -Peter Watrous New York Times

Last Born in Jeannette

Slide Hampton was born Locksley Wellington Hampton on born April 21, 1932 in the small glass manufacturing  town of Jeanette, Pennsylvania 30 miles east of Pittsburgh. The Hampton family had relocated to Jeannette from Richmond Virginia.  His father Clark Dehart Hampton, who had been a music teacher in a white school, was run out of town for reprimanding the Richmond mayor’s son.   Slide was the last born into a family of twelve children with eight boys and four girls.  Living next door to a white family in a duplex house Slide remembers the town of Jeannette fondly as an integrated community different from more segregated cities that he ived in later.  The Hamptons moved to Middleton, Ohio when Slide was three and relocated to Indianapolis, Indiana in 1938 when he was six.   

The Hampton Family Band

Clark Hampton, the son of slaves, taught himself to read, paint, and to play several musical instruments.  He was an accomplished tenor saxophonist and drummer.  Slide’s mother Laura played piano and harp.  Clark and Laura taught their children to sing, dance, and play instruments.  Each child was given an instrument and Clark taught them as much as he knew.  Before leaving Richmond, Clark Hampton formed a family band with his wife and children.  The band was initially called the Hampton Pickaninnies and later the Hampton Cotton Pickers.  They performed at fairs, circuses, tent shows, parties, and clubs playing jazz blues, ballads dance tunes, polkas and square dance music.  Clark rehearsed the band 6 hours a day.  Slide began performing with the family band at age 3 as a dancer and singer.

Following their dream of music the Hampton family moved to the state of Indiana to work with the William C. Powell booking agency. The Powell agency put the Hamptons and other Indianopolis based bands on tour throughout the country, At the time Indianopolis had a strong music scene producing musicians such as David Baker, Freddie Hubbard,. J. J. Johnson, and Wes Montgomery.  As the Hampton family band needed a trombone player, Slide was given a left handed slide trombone and was taught the basics by his father and his brother Clark.  Clark instructed Slide on advanced techniques such as circular breathing and multi-phonics, a method of playing more than one note at a time. in Indianapolis Slide and three of his brothers continued their music studies at the MacArthur Conservatory. Slide began performing on trombone with the family band in 1944, at the age of twelve.  The Hamptons toured the South with a traveling carnival and with the Louis Jordan band.  The family band stopped touring during World War II when four of the older Hampton were drafted into the military.  The four sisters formed the Hampton Sisters and performed at army camps and military hospitals.  The Hamptons reformed after the war and toured throughout the Midwest and East .  They landed a long term engagement performing as the house band at the Sunset Terrace Hotel in Indianapolis.  They later became the house band at Cincinnati s Cotton Club.   

Clark Hampton died in 1951 and his son Duke took over direction of the band.  
The Duke Hampton Boy and Girl Band came to national attention in 1952.  in April of 1952 the nationally distributed Pittsburgh Courier newspaper conducted a Band Poll asking readers to vote for their favorite bands and singers. The Duke Hampton Boy and Girl Band won the "Best New Band" award.   All of the contest winners performed in concert at New York City's famed Carnegie Hall in May of 1952.  Slide Hampton at age 20 performed with his family at Carnegie Hall on the same bill as Lionel Hampton, the Nat King Cole Trio, and Pittsburgh crooner Billy Eckstine. The concert was broadcast live nationwide on the Mutual radio network. The Hamptons returned to New York for month of engagements with two weeks at the Apollo Theater and two weeks at the Savoy Ballroom. After seeing Bud Powell at Birdland Slide Slide decided then that he wanted to work in New York as soon as he was old enough to go out on his own,. The Hamptons made an appearance in the Pittsburgh area in November of 1952 performing at the Sewickly Legion Hall.

Slide made his first recording at age twenty as a session player with Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson at King Records in Cincinnati, Ohio on July 7, 1952. On April 7, 1953, The Duke Hampton Boy and Girl Band recorded several songs for the King label in Cincinnati, Ohio. King Records released the single "Please Be Good To Me" with Aletra Hampton singing lead.

Buddy, Lionel, and Maynard

Slide left the Duke Hampton Band in 1953 and found work with a band in Houston, Texas. R&B band leader and singer Buddy Johnson' heard Slide play in Houston and took him back to New York to became a member of the Buddy Johnson Band.  Slide Slide recorded with Buddy on the album "Go Ahead and Rock and Roll".  He left Buddy Johnson in 1956 to work with Lionel Hampton. He joined Maynard Ferguson's big band in 1957 where he established his reputation as composer and arranger. Ferguson recorded and popularized Hampton's songs “The Fugue,” “Three Little Foxes,” and “Slide's Derangement.”  Hampton recorded four albums with Ferguson. As his reputation grew as a trombonist and arranger, Hampton was hired for arrangements, compositions and session work by Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Barry Harris, Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Max Roach, and other jazz greats. Hampton left Fergurson in 1959 to pursue a solo career.

The Slide Hampton Octet plays the Crawford Grill
Hampton began his recording career as a leader in 1959 working with an ensemble of horn players including Booker Little, Freddie Hubbard, and George Coleman. His first release was "Slide Hampton and His Horn of Plenty" in 1959 followed by "Sister Salvation" and "Somethin' Sanctified" in 1960. He released five albums in 1962 including "Drum Suite" and "Jazz in Paris".  The Slide Hampton Octet toured the U.S. and Europe in support of his releases. He made several 2 and 3 night stands at Pittsburgh's Crawford Grill during 1960, 1962, and 1963. In 1960 he played for four straight weeks at the Crawford doing nightly shows and Friday and Saturday matinees.  Slide Hampton returned to Pittsburgh to record the album "Harold Betters Meets Slide Hampton" that was released on Gateway Records in 1965.  Slide worked as a music director for several Motown artist from 1964 to 1967 including Stevie Wonder and the Four Tops.

European Years

In 1968 Slide went on a two week tour of the UK performing with Woody Herman  After the tour he decided to stay in Europe as audiences and arts groups were more supportive of jazz than was the pop and rock crazed United States.  Slide worked in Europe for eight years.  He spent the first six years living in France and the last two in Berlin.  He  performed and recorded with other American Jazz expatriates such as Benny Bailey, Kenny Clarke, Kenny Drew, Art Farmer, Johnny Griffin.and Dexter Gordon.  He appeared at many European jazz festivals and on television and radio.  Slide worked as a music director and arranger for several European radio orchestras.  He performed with the Slide Hampton Super Band in Berlin.

Return to the U.S.

Slide returned to the U.S. in 1977 and began teaching university master classes as an artist-in-residence at Harvard, the University of Massachusetts, De Paul University in Chicago, and Indiana University.   He gave a clinic in arranging and performed in concert with Grover Washington Jr, Billy Taylor and Nathan David at the Pitt Jazz Seminar in October of 1979.  Slide also appeared at the Crawford Grill in May of 1979.

Hampton formed an ensemble of nine trombones and a rhythm section that he called the World of Trombones: After a week long appearance t the Village Vanguard, Max Gordon signed the band to the 1201 Music record label.  The "World of Trombones" album was released in 1979 featuring Curtis Fuller, Steve Turre, Janice Robinson and Afro-Latin star Papo Vasquez.  

Slide continued to record, compose and arrange in the 1990s and the 21st Century.  He recorded and performed with the Slide Hampton Quartet and Quintet and toured the world with the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Stars.  Slide served as a special adviser and arranger for the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and wrote arrangements for many recording projects around the world.  He recorded a tribute album for Dizzy Gillespie in 1993 titled "Dedicated to Diz" and released inclusion (1993), Slide Plays Jobim (2002), Jazz Matinee (2002).  

Hampton appeared at Pittsburgh's Manchester Craftsman Jazz  Series.  
The live recording of that performance was released on MCJ Jazz in 2003 titled "Spirit of the Horn".   The album was the first time in 20 years that Hampton recorded with his World of Trombones that included . 13 horn players, a four-piece rhythm section and himself.  The All Music Guide in its album review calls Hampton "the Master" and writes: "Hampton conjures a fine, mellow, robust set of textures, yet not without the trademark edgy dissonances that give his sound a distinctive tang (as in the almost sinister, bass-grounded "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing")". 

Hampton arranged and conducted the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra's 2005 release "The Way" that won a Grammy award for "Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album".  In 2006 he created the Slide Hampton Ultra Big Band.