Lionel Hampton's annual seminar at Howard University Tuesday night was a three-hour crash course that filled Cramton Auditorium with the sounds of the swing era updated here and there by several veteran boppers and a couple of younger performers who occasionally took it "outside" with free expression.
Four saxophonists booted along by a dust-kicking rhythm section were first up, trading fours, twos, ones and then moving the walls back with a collective jam a la Jazz at the Philharmonic of the 1950s. Tenorists Ricky Ford, Frank Foster and Paul Jeffrey and altoist Rene McLean each then interpreted a ballad of his choice, and Hampton applied mallets to vibraphone on a set-closing reprise of the earlier boiling tempo. John Coliante was at the piano, Milt Hinton on bass and Frankie Dunlop at the drums.
Pianist Teddy Wilson, assisted by his sons Theodore and Steven on, respectively, bass and drums, re-created the jazz trio format and mood that he helped bring into existence in the mid-1930s. Deftly crafted standards swung gently but surely beneath Wilson's fingers, and when Hampton rolled his instrument out for "Limehouse Blues" and "Nagasaki," the result was explosive.
Dexter Gordon's tenor saxophone, big-toned and visceral, paid homage to bop composer Tadd Dameron on "Good Bait," supported by the authoritative piano of his former associate in the 1940s' Billy Eckstine orchestra, John Malachi.
Informality prevailed as those musicians on stage sampled the offering and others emerged from the wings to join the fray. Buck Hill and Paul Jeffrey spelled one another on feverish choruses and the ubiquitous Hampton dealt out vibe-style piano with index fingers, shuffle-danced, scatted, mugged and generally cut up. At one point, Gordon, in mock exasperation, poised a mallet aloft the momentarily deserted vibraphone.