Lionel Hampton joins forces with a number of top French musicians for this 1955 studio session, reissued in Verve's Jazz in Paris series. Three of the four compositions are Hampton's, swinging tunes arranged by Christian Chevalier. The first, "Voice of the North," is primarily for the leader's matchless vibes with the rhythm section, though individual soloists are featured, including fellow Americans Nat Adderley and Benny Bailey on trumpets and David Amram on French horn, as well as clarinetist Maurice Meunier and baritone saxophonist William Boucaya. It's just Hampton and the rhythm section (pianist René Urtreger, bassist Guy Pedersen, and drummer Jean-Baptiste Reilles) for the long workout of "À la French." The one standard of the date, "Crazy Rhythm," suffers from somewhat muddy sound, particularly the overly distant brass. Guitarist Sacha Distel, though admittedly intimidated by Hampton, rises to the leader's level of playing with a fine solo. Overall, this is an enjoyable if not quite essential CD by Lionel Hampton.
Artists House, a classy if short-lived label, released this attractive Chet Baker LP, a quintet date with tenor saxophonist Gregory Herbert, pianist Harold Danko, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Mel Lewis. The challenging material ("The Song Is You" is the only one of the five songs that is a standard) inspires the musicians to play creative solos. It is particularly interesting to hear Baker interpret the Wayne Shorter tune "ESP."