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Good Vibes: Louisville Concert To Honor Jazz Legend Lionel Hampton

Lionel Hampton and Gene Krupa
Wikimedia Commons
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Lionel Hampton and Gene Krupa performing with Benny Goodman's orchestra in the Bay Area, ca.1939, photographed by Joseph Park Biehl

Musician Dick Sisto says that if Lionel Hampton hadn’t been born, he -- and an entire generation of jazz artists -- wouldn’t be playing “the vibes.”

Lionel Hampton was born in Louisville in 1908 and is credited with popularizing the vibraphone.

“It’s not a xylophone, it’s not a marimba, it’s a different instrument,” Sisto said. “Those are made of wood, this is made of metal. It has a pedal, it has a vibrato. It’s a wild instrument.”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_rTICMVXQQ]

For years, Hampton played with the Benny Goodman Quartet before becoming a successful bandleader. He went on to receive honors from Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and performed well into his 90s before his death in 2002.

“I love this quote that he would say: 'Man, as long as people want to hear jazz, I’ll give it them,’” said Mayor Greg Fischer at a news conference announcing the concert. “So he played until his final days”

To honor his legacy, Sisto (full disclosure -- he's the the host of WFPK’s “Inner Ear’) will lead a group of featured jazz artists who will pay tribute to jazz greats past and present.

They include: trumpeter Barry Ries, guitarist Bobby Broom, bassist Jim Anderson, keyboardist Bobby Floyd, drummer Art Gore and special guest Harry Skoler on clarinet.

The concert will take place in the Bomhard Theater of the Kentucky Center on Saturday, Oct. 7. Proceeds will benefit the Lincoln Foundation’s Whitney M. YOUNG Scholars Program.

Featured image: Lionel Hampton (vibes) and Gene Krupa (drums) performing with Benny Goodman's orchestra in the Bay Area, ca.1939, photographed by Joseph Park Biehl