The power of music is what keeps Lionel Hampton going.
"I've got a lot of new numbers that I want to play for the people," the world-famous, 90-year-old vibraphone player said during a phone interview from his home in New York. "And I just like to keep playing."Lionel Hampton will headline the jazz night (Saturday) of the 11th annual Snowbird Jazz and Blues Festival. The event runs Friday, July 31, through Saturday, Aug. 1. Friday's lineup, which will be capped off by blues guitarist Joe Louis Walker, begins at 6 p.m. while Saturday's will start at 5 p.m. (See adjoining list of Jazz & Blues Festival performers.)
One-day passes are $35 (reserved) and $25 (general admission) in advance or $38 and $28 at the door. Two-day passes are $60 and $40 in advance or $62 and $42 at the door. Children 12 and younger are half general admission price. Children under 3 are free.
Tickets are available at all ArtTix outlets, the Snowbird ticket office, Neighborhood Box Office Kiosks or by calling 355-5502 or 355-2787. Overnight packages are available by calling Snowbird at 1-800-453-3000.
Hampton enjoys doing festival gigs. In 1985, the University of Idaho renamed it's annual jazz festival the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival. And he's been doing gigs there every year. He has toured the world and appeared at the Hollywood Bowl for the Playboy Jazz Festival.
Earlier this month, Hampton took off for France for the annual Jazz Festival in Nice.
"I'm closing out the festival, there," he said happily. "I can't wait."
Hampton's lush 70-year career in professional music began in 1930. Back then, "Hamp," as his close acquaintances call him, was a drummer.
He met one of his music idols, Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong. Arm-strong was so impressed by Hampton that he asked the drummer to join his backup band.
Hampton had learned musical discipline while a youngster at the Holy Rosary Academy. His idol during those years was drummer Jimmy Bertrand. Hampton fell back on those old-school lessons during the gig with Armstrong.
Armstrong pointed to a set of vibes and asked Hampton if he knew how to play. Hampton said he'd try. The memorable song that came from incident was "Memories of You."
Hampton switched to the vibes, and six years later, found himself playing with swing king Benny Goodman. Hampton's band mates included Goodman, pianist Teddy Wilson and drummer Gene Krupa. The band was collectively known as the Benny Goodman Quartet, the first racially integrated band of jazz musicians.
"Next thing you know, I was on stage jamming with these great musicians," said Hampton, his speech slow because of a 1995 stroke. "That's a session I'll never forget."
Among the tunes the Quartet recorded included "Dinah," "Moonglow" and "Vibraphone Blues."
Six years later, Hampton formed his own band, the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, and released such hits as the trademark "Sunny Side of the Street," "Flying Home," "Hamp's Boogie-Woogie" and "Central Avenue Breakdown."
Notable names that had passed through the revolving LHO door include Wes Montgomery, Clark Terry, Cat Anderson, Art Farmer, Clifford Brown, Quincy Jones, Nat "King" Cole and proteges Dinah Washington, Betty Carter, Aretha Franklin and Joe Williams.
"I had wonderful experiences throughout my life," Hampton said with a chuckle. "And I'm still getting myself out there, oh, yea."
In addition to those stage performances, Hampton has received numerous awards during his career.
He has been the Official American Goodwill Ambassador for Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon; he was awarded the Papal Medal from Pope Paul I; he garnered the Gold Medal of Paris, France's highest cultural award; and is the recipient of 17 honorary doctorates from universities around the world.
In 1992, Hampton shared the Kennedy Center Honors Awards with dancers Paul Taylor and Ginger Rogers and actors Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.
Recently, Hampton was awarded the National Medal of the Arts by President Clinton. Earlier this year, Hampton received the Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art in Vienna.
Although Hampton appears to have lived his life to its fullest, he is still looking for ways to play music.
"I'm always creating new numbers," he said. "And my biggest reward is getting in front of an audience and playing. I can't wait until I can play for you in Salt Lake City. Oh, yea!"
Jazz & Blues Fest performers
Here is a complete list of the performers who will play the 11th Annual Snowbird Jazz & Blues Festival that will run Friday, July 31, through Saturday, Aug. 1.
FRIDAY, JULY 31, Blues Night, beginning at 6 p.m.:
Blues band Kap Brothers
Pianist Lady Bianca
Guitarist John Hammond
Guitarist Joe Louis Walker
SATURDAY, AUGUST 1, Jazz Night, beginning at 5 p.m.:
Wasatch Allstars led by pianist Larry Jackstein
Jazz duo Jimmy & Jeannie Cheatham
Tenor saxophonist Houston Pearson
Jazz band Freddy Cole Trio (brother of the late Nat "King" Cole)
Vibraphonist Lionel Hampton