Hampton’s Heavyweight Tentet


On September 11, 1939, one of the finest tentets ever assembled recorded four sides for RCA Victor. As lineups go, this one is hard to beat: Dizzy Gillespie (tp); Benny Carter (as,arr); Coleman Hawkins, Chu Berry and Ben Webster (ts); Lionel Hampton (vib,vcl); Clyde Hart (p); Charlie Christian (g); Milt Hinton (b) and Cozy Cole (d). [Photo above of Lionel Hampton in 1946 by William P. Gottlieb]

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We get to hear so much on these four recordings: Dizzy Gillespie’s early staccato heat; Benny Carter’s arrangements and smokey-sweet alto playing; Coleman Hawkins, Chu Berry and Ben Webster puffing in the same sax section (Berry would die in a car crash in 1941 at age 33); Lionel Hampton singing and starting to develop the jump-blues feel; Charlie Christian playing rhythm guitar (he’d die in 1942 at age 25 after an illness rooted in earlier tuberculosis); Clyde Hart’s beautiful piano solos; Milt Hinton’s thumping bass; and Cozy Cole’s snappy drums. [Photo above of Chu Berry]

Here are the four sides. All were done in one take except When Lights Are Low, which took two (I’m using the alternate take here because the sound is brighter):

Here’s When Lights Are Low

When Lights Are Low (alt tk)

Here’s One Sweet Letter From You, with a vocal by Hampton…

One Sweet Letter From You

Here’s Hot Mallets

Hot Mallets

And here’s Early Session Hop

Early Session Hop

JazzWax note: Saxophonist Bill Kirchner sent along the following…

Hi there. I have a copy of Benny’s score for When Lights Are Low, and there are two interesting curiosities:

1. A good bit of his writing for the horns is edited out, shortening the chart. Why? There’s nothing that is too difficult for these players, and it’s not for lack of sufficient time. The resulting takes are both only slightly over two minutes long—short even by 78 rpm standards.

2. All of the saxes have the names of the players on their parts. But Dizzy’s part says only “trumpet”—which indicates that Dizzy was hired as an afterthought.

I never had the opportunity to ask Benny about these things. I should have called him.


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