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Saturday, August 13, 2022

A Salute To Hamp - Teddy Charles


Airmail Special

Salute To Hamp
Flyin' Home
Teddy Charles Salutes Linel Hamptom
Teddy Charles And His Sextet
Bethlehem Records BCP-6032

From the back cover: Some people may mutter, baffled self-question, "Teddy Charles and Lionel Hampton?... how far apart can two jazz vibists be?" Yet there is a connection just because they are two jazz vibists and the fact that a nine year old Charles became interested in the vibes when he heard Hampton on the Benny Goodman quartet recordings. Although they are far apart today, stylistically, Teddy still had admiration for Hamp. He says, "I was once misquoted in an article concerning who I thought was best in the various aspects of playing the vibes. I thought then, and still do today, that insofar as swinging goes, Hamp is champ."

To me, there is a further validity in this salute because Charles does not attempt to mimic Hampton or try to recreate the selections in the manner Lionel first did them. Teddy says, simply, "I just wanted to do some numbers identified with Hamp in different phases of his career."

This approach and his choice of such high caliber musicians as Zoot Sims, Art Framer, Bob Brookmeyer and Hank Jones to share the solo space with him, the effectively uncluttered arrangements of the sextet numbers, the informality of the quartet and trio tracks, the loose swing of the rhythm men (Addison Farmer and Ed Thigpen or Charlie Smith); all these are factors which contribute to make this one of the most delightfully relaxed jazz records in a long while – and by relaxed, I don't mean in the Perry Como manner.

Of the musicians in this set, Bob Brookmeyer and Art Farmer have both played with Teddy Charles quartets, at different times, and Addison Farmer has also been with several Charles units. Brother Art is the only one to have played with Lionel Hampton; he was with the band form the fall of 1952 to the fall of 1953.

The sextet, comprised of Brookmeyer, Sims, Charles, the two Farmers and Thigpen, divide its time between two swingers and two ballads.

Airmail Special - Hamp did it with the Benny Goodman sextet as Good Enough To Keep in 1941; his own big band recorded it in 1946 is done here in a swiftly causing manner with two choruses apiece by Sims, Brookmeyer, Farmer (note his quote from Bud Powells' Wail) and Charles. The piano comping for Teddy is by Brookmeyer.

Flyin' Home - Hamp recorded it with Goodman in 1939; his own band made it twice, in 1941 and 1944 has had the phrasing of its line slightly altered by Teddy who has given in a soppy flavor. Sims has the bridge in the first chorus. Brookmeyer does some interesting things with the Flyin' Home figure during his sixteen bars and after Farmer finishes out the second chorus, the horns set a riff behind Charles as he solos. Sim solos simultaneously with time out only for the four soloists to divide the bridge.

Midnight Sun, the pretty ballad first down by Hampton in 1947, is sensitively handled by Charles in a single-line statement with the ensemble alternately set against him and underneath as a carpet. The only other soloist is Sims, who has the first bridge.

Stardust, whose strongest connection with Hampton stems from the famous concert recording of 1947 (in the company of Charlie Shavers, Slam Stewart, etc.), begins in the most arresting way with a sustained background against which Bob Brookmeyer flows from his own introduction into tan exhilarating exposition of the theme. It is carried along by a more literal, but none the less beautiful, Farmer and a heart-throbbing Sims. A short interlude segues quickly into a thoughtful Charles. (Brookmeyer backs him on piano again)

The one trio track is from the sextet date and finds bassist Framer and drummer Thigpen backing Charles in Gone Again, the number which vocalist Wini Brown scored heavily in the Hampton recording of 1947. Teddy alternates his four-mallet technique with the single line here as Addison's big-toned bass is a strong asset.

On the quartet numbers with Hank Jones, Addison Farmer and Charlie Smith, the four-mallet technique is really utilized. The few other vibists who employ it do so only for comping and use root positions of the chords. Teddy approximates a saxophone or trumpet section by the use of voice leading.

Hamp recorded On The Sunny Side Of The Street with an all-star group in 1937; his vocal ("rich as Rockyfellow") is well remembered. Charles does not sing here (although you may hear him humming to himself at different times throughout the album) but he does present an unaffected version of the song. Hank Jones has the bridge on the second chorus before Teddy takes it out with some rich voicings.

Hampton was on the 1936 Goodman quartet recording of Stompin' At The Savoy and Moonglow. The Charles quartet delineates them in the same manner as Sunny Side Of The Street. The interplay between Teddy and Charles Smith reminds me of 52nd Street clubs in the mid-forties for some reason. (Teddy says that I must have been drinking a very watery Scotch while listening to this track).

Blue Hamp, an original blues by Charles, has suggestions of both Hamp and Teddy in its line. The solos are by Teddy, Hank and Addison.

It was mentioned earlier that Charles became interested in the vibes through hearing Hampton. This was about the extent of Lionel's specific influence on Teddy. Who then were his inspirers? Leonard Feather, in his generally valuable Book Of Jazz (Horizon), erroneously stated, "To a fusion of what he has drawn from an intelligent inspection of the quadrumvirate (Norvo, Hampton, Jackson, Gibbs) Charles has added a musical maturity that stems from extensive studies with Hall Overton... Actually, Charles influences are not vibistic but derive rather from Charlie Parker and Bud Powell. These he has tempered with his own ideas, many of which were helped to blossom through his studies with Overton as Feather pointed out.

Teddy once wrote an article in Metronome (now Music USA) in which he spoke of musicians as "wiggers" (the ones who emphasized the cerebral) and "wailers" (ones who concentrated more on swinging). In some of his most experiment moments, Teddy has still found time to "wail" and here, in the simple format, he pays attention to "wailing" while not forgetting to "wig it" too. Perhaps he could be classified  as a "wailing wig". Whatever his category, Teddy can stand on his own feet as some good blowing jazz – Ira Gitler

Airmail Special 
Midnight Sun
Flyin' Home
Gone Again
On The Sunny Side Of The Street
Stompin' At The Savoy
Blue Hamp

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