In Memoriam: Slide Hampton, 1932–2021

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Slide Hampton: Rest in peace.

(Photo: Mark Sheldon)

Slide Hampton, the distinguished jazz trombonist, composer and arranger, passed away Nov. 18. He was 89.

Born Locksley Wellington Hampton in Pennsylvania, he moved with his family to Indianapolis, where he made a name for himself on the city’s famed Indiana Avenue, a street where jazz clubs of the day nurtured the likes of Wes Montgomery, Freddie Hubbard, David Baker, fellow trombonist J.J. Johnson and others.

He started playing in his family’s band, The Duke Hampton Band, at age 12. That was the launching pad for a career that took him around the world playing with everyone from Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie and Maynard Ferguson to Art Blakey, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, Max Roach, Barry Harris and more.

In 1960, he formed his own octet modeled after Miles Davis’, as he told DownBeat in a Jan. 19, 1961, interview. “Over the years, I have listened to a number of bands of different sizes that I liked,” Hampton said. “I suppose the Miles Davis Octet was a great influence on the type of should I would like to hear in my own group. For this group, I tried to get an instrumentation which would be between all the other sizes and yet get a little of each of these sounds.”

By 1962, he had solidified the band as the Slide Hampton Octet, which included Hubbard, George Coleman and Booker Little, touring the world and recording for several labels.

After touring with Woody Herman in 1968, Hampton remained in Europe, connecting with a community of expat jazz musicians including Art Farmer and Dexter Gordon. He returned to the U.S. in the late 1970s, teaching at a variety of universities and continuing his arranging and composing work and creating his World Of Trombones album, the ultimate salute to the trombone that included nine top-notch trombonists and a rhythm section.

Hampton won two Grammy Awards, the first in 1998 for Best Jazz Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for his arrangement of “Cotton Tail” performed by Dee Dee Bridgewater; the second in 2005 for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for The Way: Music Of Slide Hampton, The Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.

In 2005, Hampton was named an NEA Jazz Master. DB



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