With Lionel Hampton, you pretty much know what you're going to get: irrepressibly swinging big-band arrangements with plenty of open spaces for vigorous solos from the band's mix of young talents and seasoned pros. "Made In Japan," a new live record, extends Hampton's successful formula into its fourth decade with little sign of wear.
Hampton himself may not be as fleet with the mallets as he was in the '30s when he first turned the vibraphone into a viable jazz instrument, but his sense of harmonic adventure and melodic expansion remains vibrantly active.
After a brief, bluesy intro to the opening cut, "Advent," the new album is strictly uptempo, bright and brassy in its ensemble passages, and generally punchy in its solo excursions (the one exception being Tom Chapin's lyrical Frank Wess- ish flute on the Gigi Gryce staple, "Sans Souci"). Hampton also looks to Thelonious Monk ("Evidence"), Freddie Hubbard (a bouncy, brash "Jodo") and to several members of the band that went to Japan (Ricky Ford, who contributes a searing sax solo to his own "Interpretations, Opus 5," and trumpet player Johnny Walker, responsible for "Advent").
The music throughout is fresh without being particularly innovative; it charges ahead with the kind of energetic commitment that's been a mainstay of Hampton's long and undiminished career. LIONEL HAMPTON & HIS BIG BAND -- "Made in Japan" (Glad Hamp GHS1023). Appearing at Blues Alley through Sunday.