Hampton has the distinction of being one of the very few musicians to introducea new
instrument to jazz: the vibraharp. He was born in 1908 and learned how to play the
piano and drums. Around 1930, he discovered the vibraharp (a.k.a.
"vibes"), a metallic xylophone with an electric fan which allows notes to be
suspended. At the right is a picture of this instrument. This instrument was
perfect for his talents, allowing him to play melodic percussion.
From 1936 to 1940, he played in Benny Goodman's quartet, which was the most popular small band at the time. He proved to the be the equal of the other members: Goodman, Gene Krupa, and Teddy Wilson. In 1940, he led his own big band and has, on and off up to
Orphy Robinson playing the vibes
|today. In 1941, he
recorded the classic song Flying Home that made boosted the careers of he and his
saxophonist Illinois Jacquet. According to jazz
legend, his band was a fore-runner to rock 'n' roll music, when his band played the song
at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, and the song created created so much excitement that the
building began to move. His band is known for driving, blues-based music.
He is an energetic showman and his bands have featured such stars as Jacquet, Clifford Brown, Dexter Gordon,
and Art Farmer.
On the Vibes, Hampton creates different styles. On up-beat songs, he uses them like drums. On medium-tempo songs, he plays a forceful swing style and at slow tempos, he can play rhapsodic ballads. Sometimes, he also sings, plays drums, and 2-fingered piano.