I’m among the many saddened by Slide Hampton’s departure at age 89, but what a life and what a career. I’d been putting a list together anyway, and so I’ll rush this out to provide some earfood for the curious/uninitiated and to invite other Slide-lovers to chime in. This one specifically revolves around currently-in-print sides, though crate-diggers will find a good bit more to enjoy as well. I was first introduced to Slide’s genius by a colleague of his (and teacher of mine), William Fielder, aka “Prof.” Slide embodied the word “virtuoso” both with his trombone and with his pen (I’m excluding tracks he didn’t play on from this list, but that’s another very large and impressive can of worms). Here is a small sampling of some beautiful work from Slide.
1 ) “Slide’s Ride” from Two Bones by Curtis Fuller (1958)
Though not Slide’s first recording, this is the first recording of one of his tunes I’m aware of. He and Curtis Fuller (man, what a rough year for trombone giants’ mortality) both burn here, separated by a nice solo by pianist Sonny Clark.
2 ) “Go East, Young Man” from Horn of Plenty (reissued as Two Sides of Slide) (1959)
This is a hip tune with a clever arrangement, characteristic on both levels of his highly personal approach to composing for octet. Slide’s own solo is quite intense and there’s a nice solo in addition by Jay Cameron on baritone saxophone, a lesser-known player who was an important contributor to Slide’s octet sessions of the era.
3 ) “Part 1 – Impression” from Two Sides of Slide (reissued as The Cloister Suite) (1961)
This selection, another great octet example, is totally cheating in that once you hear the moody, idiosyncratic writing on the first movement of this ambitious suite (as well as Slide’s masterful trombone playing) you will invariably need to listen to the other three movements to get the whole picture. And you’ll be glad you did.
4 ) “Chop Suey” from Mellow-dy (1967)
I challenge anyone to come up with a more burning example of a trombonist soloing on an up-tempo swing tune than this. His interplay with and the subsequent solo by the great pianist Martial Solal are also wonderful, and while this wasn’t the first recording he ever made in Europe, this one presages the ten subsequent years of those.
5 ) “My Blues” from A Day in Copenhagen by Dexter Gordon (1969)
One could make a case for this session as the definitive example of American ex-pat jazz. Aside from bass giant Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, all the musicians here (Slide, Dexter, Dizzy Reece, Kenny Drew, Art Taylor) fit the bill, and more importantly, this swings like crazy (with Slide’s tune, arrangement, and trombone solo all wonderful).
6 ) “Tribute” from Give Me a Double by Slide Hampton/Joe Haider Orchestra (1974)
Slide thriving in Europe in the 1970s? Slide providing a pitch-perfect big band arrangement? Slide shredding on the chords from Coltrane’s “Giant Steps?” Check, check, and check.
7 ) “Every Man Is A King” from Something In Common by Sam Jones (1977)
This powerful Hampton composition is a highlight of this album by Sam Jones, a bassist whose recorded partnership with Slide goes back nearly 20 years prior, courtesy of Nat Adderley’s Much Brass record. Bob Berg, Blue Mitchell, Cedar Walton, and Billy Higgins are also featured.
8 ) “Roots” from Roots (1985)
This Hampton composition and really this whole album (featuring Clifford Jordan on tenor saxophone, David Williams on bass, and, again, the iconic tandem of Cedar Walton/Billy Higgins) is a highlight of the Criss Cross label’s huge and important output and of 1980s straight-ahead jazz more generally.
9 ) “Entre Nous” from Panorama: Live at the Village Vanguard by Jim Hall (1996)
This whole performance is a clinic in melody, from the opening duet section with just Hall’s guitar and Hampton’s trombone to the subsequent group interplay with Scott Colley and Terry Clarke in addition.
10 ) “A Day In Vienna” from Nothing Serious by Roy Hargrove (2005)
Later in his career, Slide was a featured soloist on a number of albums by musicians of younger generations, including this grooving performance of a Slide composition (first recorded with Dexter Gordon on the session cited above) by Roy Hargrove, a giant in his own right and well known for his devotion to the elders.