Review: ‘Salute to Lionel Hampton; Stephane Grappelli; Ray Brown Trios’

A trio of bassists (Brown, John Clayton, Christian McBride) who parlayed their differences into an amazingly satisfying, finger-popping set.

A trio of bassists (Brown, John Clayton, Christian McBride) who parlayed their differences into an amazingly satisfying, finger-popping set.

Even in this fast company, young McBride proved that he has gone into another dimension, turning explosive phrases as if he were playing a horn, making his colleagues seem like conventional bass players.

Though frail and speaking barely above a whisper, 87-year-old Stephane Grappelli remains an ongoing violinistic miracle. His elegantly swinging phrasing, gushing with Continental charm, and his delicious mauve-colored tone are still virtually intact.

More than that, he turned out some spine-chillingly eloquent passages on worn standards “Night And Day” and “Blue Moon,” aided by Bucky Pizzarelli’s trademark chugging guitar chords.

With Hamp sidelined on doctor’s orders, the Golden Men of Jazz sounded rudderless, almost dazed, even with Milt Jackson and Terry Gibbs as stellar subs. It went all right for awhile, particularly when 85-year-old Milt Hinton offered a delightfully wry autobiography in song, “Old Man Time.”

But when they struck up “Hamp’s Boogie Woogie” and “Flying Home,” it was a stylistic horror, with bopsters Jackson and Gibbs totally out of their element and normally hard-swinging Louis Bellson in a lethargic mood. Rarely have so many distinguished names produced so little.

Salute to Lionel Hampton; Stephane Grappelli; Ray Brown Trios

(Hollywood Bowl; 17,960 seats; $ 57 top)

Production

Presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn. Bands: Golden Men of Jazz in a Salute to Lionel Hampton (Milt Jackson, Terry Gibbs, Louis Bellson, Milt Hinton, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Al Grey, Pete Candoli, Junior Mance, Jerome Richardson, Jack Kelson); Grappelli, Bucky Pizzarelli, Jon Burr; Brown, Benny Green, Greg Hutchinson, Christian McBride, John Clayton. Reviewed Sept. 13, 1995. Despite the super-stellar band inadequately paying tribute to absent leader Lionel Hampton's ebullience and bounce, the other acts on the bill fulfilled their completely different promises. Bassist Ray Brown brought two groups to the Bowl: a pro-forma piano trio dominated by a surprisingly strident Benny Green and a second band that was another trip altogether.
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