Fri, Oct 17, 2008 - Page 14 News List

Slidin’ through jazz history

By David Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER


Trombonist and composer Slide Hampton arrives in Taiwan for a performance and master class at the Taichung Jazz Festival next week. If you’re a jazz fan, now would be the time to start getting excited.

“He’s a man with history,” said Daniel Shen (沈鴻元), host of Taipei Philharmonic Radio’s nightly jazz program and this year’s festival. “We’re pretty lucky to have him here.”

Hampton, 76, was literally born into jazz. Everyone in his family — both of his parents, eight brothers, and four sisters — were all musicians and performed as the Hampton Band.

He didn’t choose the trombone — his parents did, as the family band needed a trombonist. He was touring the American Midwest with the band by the age of 12, and playing Carnegie Hall by 20.

“I’m glad they chose it for me,” said Hampton in a telephone interview from his home in East Orange, New Jersey on Friday of last week.

Hampton went on to play with notable jazz figures such as trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and drummer Art Blakey and honed a reputation as a composer and arranger.

He received a Grammy in 1998 for his arranging skills and in 2005 was honored with the title of Jazz Master from the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest official recognition for jazz musicians in the US. He currently serves as musical director for the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band and leads the World of Trombones, as well as his own big band.

Recently Hampton has been busy completing a commission to compose four songs under the title theme, A Tribute to African/American Greatness. The four tunes, co-written with his manager Tony Charles, are named after and dedicated to Hampton’s personal heroes: Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey, Tiger Woods, and Venus and Serena Williams.

He imbued each song with a rhythm that he felt best described the person or people in question: “Nelson Mandela is based on an African approach to rhythm … Oprah is based on a ‘funk’ kind of rhythm because that’s the kind of music she seems to prefer …With Tiger I put something for him that seems to relate to his ability to move so well, something that swings for him, something really fast. For the Williams sisters, I did a bossa nova.”

Hampton is also widely recognized as an educator, having taught master classes at Harvard and Indiana universities. When he gets to Taichung next week, he plans to share some of his wisdom about jazz improvisation in a trombone master class that takes place on the 4th floor of the Windsor Hotel (裕元花園酒店) in Taichung next Saturday at 1pm.

The jazz maven says he usually starts by talking about the essence of jazz and the “individuality of the interpretation” of written music that Louis Armstrong crafted into an art.

For Hampton, it’s a lesson worth repeating. “It’s not a matter of copying or doing the same thing that someone else did — it’s a matter of being inspired by something that someone else did, to do something of your own.”

Admission for both Hampton’s master class and his performance at the final concert of the Taichung Jazz Festival on Oct. 26 is free.

Slide Hampton can be contacted through his Web site at


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