208. Lionel Hampton / Hamp: The Legendary Decca Recordings (1996)
This two-disc set by Decca Jazz was produced by Orrin Keepnews and released in 1996. Its 36 tracks present two decades of music from a motley handful of bands, strong selections that amply demonstrate the bands' power and talent. Its main attraction for me is the inclusion of several scorching live cuts. But the track sequence isn't plagued by the problems inherent to retrospective collections like an excess of vocal numbers, songs in the same key, or long runs of tracks by the same group. The disc starts live in 1945 with a wild, careening orchestra whose high energy and charm inspires jealous visions of what a swing concert was like during the heyday. Throughout, the soloists are wide and varied (Jacquet, Gillespie, Shavers, Grey, et al) and, like many of the era's best known bands, Hamp's rosters are a veritable skeleton key to the door of jazz greatness. While Hamp is not an authoritative guide nor a complete collection by any means, it is an immensely enjoyable and astutely compiled survey of one of the 20th century's most influential bandleaders and his equally influential players. Recommended.