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WESTSIDER LIONEL HAMPTON
WESTSIDER LIONEL HAMPTON
King of the Newport Jazz Festival

6-24-78

The world's greatest celebration of jazz, the Newport Jazz Festival, will get off the ground on June 23 — its 25th consecutive year. During the 12 day festival, in indoor and outdoor settings all over Manhattan and beyond, the most important names in jazz will stage nearly 30 major musical events.

More than half the concerts, appropriately enough, will take place on the West Side, in Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall. And just as appropriately, this year's festival will be dedicated to a Westsider whose life has been an inspiration to millions of people, not only for the great music he has created, but for a heart as large as the Grand Canyon. To call him merely a giant of jazz could be an understatement, because they don't come any bigger than Lionel Hampton.

Ask a dozen people what the name Lionel Hampton means to them and you're likely to get a dozen answers — all of them correct. In his 50 years as a professional musician, "Hamp" has used his remarkable gifts humbly, wisely, and unselfishly.

Music historians will always remember him as the man who introduced the vibraphone into jazz. This he accomplished in 1930, while playing with Louis Armstrong. Ever since, Hampton has been known as the world's foremost master of the instrument. He is also a leading drummer, pianist, singer, arranger, bandleader and composer. At 69, he continues to work nearly 50 weeks out of the year, taking his band to every corner of the U.S. and Europe. But whether he's making a live recording in a nightclub or performing his own symphonic works with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Lionel Hampton glows with a spiritual energy that extends far beyond his music.

It's 2 o'clock in the afternoon when I arrive at Hampton's neat, modern apartment overlooking Lincoln Center. I sit on the sofa talking with Chuck Jones, his public relations man, and a few minutes later Hampton emerges from the bedroom and plops down on the sofa beside me, wearing a dressing gown, slippers, and the famous smile that no one can imitate. After the introductions, I ask about his most recent concerts.

"I'm still trying to get myself together," he says almost apologetically in his rich Southern drawl. "We just got back from a six-week tour in Europe. We played all over Scandinavia, Germany, Southern France.

"When I was in Chicago this week, at the Playboy Cub, they gave me a new set of drums, with lights inside. I push a button and the whole drum lights up. I'm going to use them for Newport. This is the latest thing. It will blow their minds. We open on July first in Carnegie Hall and I'm bringing back a lot of veterans from my ban............
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