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Legendary jazz trombonist Slide Hampton, originally from Jeannette, has died at 89

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Whenever legendary jazz musicians Slide Hampton and Harold Betters got together or talked on the phone, renowned trombonists frequently spoke of their roots in western Pennsylvania, Betters daughter Cheryl Kelly said.

“Oh, Dad and Mr. Hampton have been very close for a very long time. They were good friends and actually last spoke on the phone shortly before my father died a year ago, ”Kelly said on Wednesday.

Locksley Wellington “Slide” Hampton died Nov. 18 at his home in Orange, New Jersey, his family announced this week. He was 89 years old.

“Slide was definitely a legendary musician and will be missed,” Kelly said. His father, originally from Connellsville and known as Mr. Trombone, passed away on October 11, 2020.

A native of Jeannette, Hampton was a two-time Grammy Award-winning composer. In 2005, he received the highest national distinction in jazz, being named Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Kelly recalled that in 1965, Hampton and his father had collaborated on an album, “Harold Betters Meets Slide Hampton”.

After that, the couple stayed close for the rest of their lives, Kelly said.

“(Hampton) was definitely one of the greatest trombonists of all time,” said Richard Gazarik, former Tribune-Review reporter and co-author of “A History of Pittsburgh Jazz: Swinging in the Steel City”.

“Slide comes from a very large family. He really didn’t live very long in Jeannette, ”Gazarik said, noting that his family moved to Indianapolis when he was young.

Slide’s nickname comes from other family members, Gazarik said.

“He was actually right-handed, but he started playing the trombone as a left-handed,” he said.

Hampton started out as a singer and dancer with a family group that included his parents and most of his 11 siblings. They were known as the Duke Hampton Family Orchestra, later as the Duke Hampton Boy and Girl Band.

He started playing the trombone at the age of 12, according to his obituary.

On its website, the National Endowment for the Arts honored Hampton and his long career.

“A charismatic figure, master arranger and formidable trombonist, Hampton occupies a special place in the jazz tradition,” says the tribute.

In a 2007 NEA interview, Hampton discussed the importance of life experience for an artist.

“Your life experience is very important – not so much for your creativity, but especially for your expression. Creativity is important, but expression is more important, ”he said. “It doesn’t matter if you compose many notes, it just matters that those notes have a lot of meaning and that you express yourself individually in a way that the music has an effect on the people who listen to it, including yourself. ”

While touring with his family band, Hampton met jazz musicians such as JJ Johnson and Wes Montgomery, who became the first influences.

In 1952, at the age of 20, Hampton was performing at Carnegie Hall with the Lionel Hampton Band (no relationship). He then joined Maynard Ferguson’s group, playing the trombone and providing new compositions to the group’s repertoire such as “The Fugue”, “Three Little Foxes” and “Slide’s Derangement”, according to the NEA.

As his reputation grew, he began working with groups led by Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Barry Harris, Thad Jones, Mel Lewis and Max Roach, again contributing to both compositions and original arrangements. In 1962 he formed the Hampton Octet Slide, which included horn players Booker Little, Freddie Hubbard and George Coleman.

From 1964 to 1967 he was musical director of various orchestras and artists. Then, after touring in 1968 with Woody Herman, he remained in Europe, performing with other expats such as Benny Bailey, Kenny Clarke, Kenny Drew, Art Farmer and Dexter Gordon.

Upon returning to the United States in 1977, Hampton began a series of master classes at Harvard University, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, DePaul University in Chicago, and Indiana University. During this time, he formed the World of Trombones: a set of nine trombones and a rhythm section, NEA said.

In 1989, he was musical co-director of Dizzy’s Diamond Jubilee, alongside Paquito D’Rivera. The one-year series of celebrations honored Dizzy Gillespie’s 75th birthday.

In 1998, Hampton received a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Arrangement with a Vocalist for Dee Dee Bridgewater’s “Cotton Tail” recording.

Most recently, he was musical advisor to the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band.

Paul Peirce is an editor for Tribune-Review. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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