Thursday, October 2, 2008

Lionel Hampton Sextet - Fiddle-Dee-Dee

Available on eMusic, Amazon, and iTunes.

Lionel Hampton - vibraphone
Marshal Royal - clarinet, alto sax
Ray Perry - violin
Charles Thompson - piano
Irving Ashby - guitar
Vernon Alley - bass
Lee Young - drums

This song has a really distinctive, ear-catching mood to it...a certain vibe, you might say (yuck yuck yuck). The first thirty seconds of the song sound exotic and a little spooky--it starts out with just the guitar playing these interesting embellishments over Hamp's ringing chords, and a very faint hi-hat symbol in the background. Then the violin speaks up, playing something similar to the guitar. It's a slow build-up, pretty dramatic, but somehow you can feel the swing in it.

Then after all that swirling about, the ensemble comes in and man do they swing. Hampton still lays down the same ringing, exotic chords, but more rapidly now, while his band plays these nice, rhythmic riffs. Everybody takes short solos and then they wrap up quickly--not so much a finale as an evaporation.

I think Ray Perry's violin is the star on this track. Listen in particular for how he doubles the vibraphone in the last phrase--I don't think I've ever heard anything like that before. I'm a pretty big fan of jazz fiddle/violin. When it's done well, I think violinists can swing really hard, and can be a lot expressive and evocative than just "oh what a pretty melody." (For instance, Stephane Grappelli could more than hold his own against Django.)

Laying back was sometimes a challenge for Hampton--since he played a percussion instrument, I think sometimes he would forget that the other musicians actually had to take a breath every once in a while, so he would just speed through relentlessly. Dancers have to breath too, so his tendency to plow through phrases makes some of his music less than ideal for dancing. This track is a nice counter-example though. When it's Hampton's turn to solo, he's frantic as usual, but he leaves room to breath and to let the phrase sink in.

File this under: tracks that will keep the energy high while sounding laid-back.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. boy those first two fiddle solos just scream "gypsy". The first one is countered by the clarinet solo, then the second one by the piano solo, both played in more of a jazzy/swingy style (sorry, I'm lacking better terminology here). Gives the tune a a kind of cross-cultural feel...