Slide Hampton at a concert in Rochester, New York, in August 1978 Credit: Photo by Tom Marcello (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Slide_Hampton_-_August_1978_(cropped).jpg), „Slide Hampton - August 1978 (cropped)“, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode)

Slide Hampton, one of the few jazz musicians, who started his early professional career in the family band and went on to become one of the most prolific arrangers and trombonists in jazz history, died Nov. 18, at his home in Orange, New Jersey; he was 89.

His son, Lamont Hampton, confirmed his death without providing a cause.

For five decades Hampton was a mentor to countless younger musicians, especially trombonists. In 1998 he won a Grammy Award for “Best Jazz Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s),” as arranger for “Cotton Tail” performed by Dee Dee Bridgewater on her 1997 album, “Dear Ella.” He won another Grammy in 2005 for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, “The Way: Music of Slide Hampton,” The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (Planet Arts). That same year he was named a National
Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Master. Earlier this year he received the Jazz Foundation of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

As a jazz educator, Hampton taught at Harvard University (artist-in-residence), the University of Massachusetts, DePaul University in Chicago, and Indiana State University.

Wanting to explore the musical sounds and experience of playing with a group of trombonists, Hampton formed the World of Trombones, in the 1980s, which consisted of nine trombones and a rhythm section.

He learned at an early age that music defied parameters leading him to not only hone his skills in the world of jazz but also in R&B music. He worked with Buddy Johnson’s jump band in the 1960s, followed by becoming music director for Lloyd Price. His next move was a stint in the same position at the famed Motown Records, working with the Four Tops and Stevie Wonder and later performing with vocalist Diana Ross.

“I was hearing music every day from the time that I was born,” Hampton said in a 2007 interview with the National Endowment for the Arts, “so I knew right away that my life would be in music.”
Hampton’s abilities as a trombonist, composer and arranger, led him to join many noted bandleaders in the 1950s and early 1960s, including Lionel Hampton (no relation) and Maynard Ferguson. He composed Ferguson’s standard tunes “The Fugue” and “Three Little Foxes.” It was with Ferguson that he came into his own as an arranger, writing charts whose harmonies were influenced by the three-horn lineup of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.

He led his own group, the Slide Hampton Octet, that included two trumpets (Freddie Hubbard and Booker Little), a baritone saxophone (Bernard McKinney), and tenor (George Coleman) and baritone sax (Jay Cameron) along with a rhythm section. They recorded the album “Slide Hampton and His Horn of Plenty” (Strand Records 1959), it was his debut recording.

After a 1968 European tour with Woody Herman’s band, he took up residence in Paris. While there he collaborated with expatriate tenor saxophonists Dexter Gordon and Johnny Griffin. He also became deeply involved in the musical styles of
Brazilian bossa nova and the classics. After returning to the states he became the music director for Dizzy Gillespie’s 75th anniversary band. He later scored a Grammy nomination for his arrangement of “Stardust,” recorded by the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band.

Locksley Wellington Hampton was born on April 21, 1932, in Jeannette, Pennsylvania. He was the youngest of 12 children and his parents were Clarke “Deacon” Hampton, a saxophonist and Laura (Buford) Hampton, a pianist. The parents taught their children how to play instruments and formed a family band. Slide, at age six, became the band’s dancer and singer. In 1938, the family moved to Indianapolis, a city that had a thriving jazz scene. He grew up near another musical

Indianapolis family: guitarist Wes Montgomery and his brothers Buddy (a pianist) and Monk (a bassist). “We used to go to their house and listen to them rehearse all the time,” recalled Hampton.

At the age of 12, Hampton’s father asked him to become the band’s trombonist. It wasn’t the easiest instrument to play at such a young age which requires the use of a long metal slide to change notes.

The trombone given to him was set up to play left-handed and he was right-handed which made it more difficult for him but he forged through and continued to play left-handed throughout his career. Along the way he earned the nickname “Slide.” After his father died in 1951, Hampton’s eldest brother Clarke Jr. “Duke” became the family band leader. In 1952, the band won a contest to play at Carnegie Hall, opening for Lionel Hampton (no relation). They later performed at the Apollo Theater and Savoy Ballroom.

In the early 1960s, he purchased a brownstone in Brooklyn (a hotbed for jazz during that period) at 245 Carlton Avenue. His home quickly became the place for burning jam sessions with John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Wes Montgomery and Eric Dolphy. Dolphy named one of his compositions “245” after Hampton’s house.

“Slide was a great arranger, he came up with new sounds in various configurations, he was able to spread out notes and harmonies to make it sound like a 20-piece orchestra,” said saxophonist Bill Saxton. “His technique and knowledge of harmony was his greatest asset. We lost an incredible musician and great human being, who was always willing to share his knowledge and music.”

Most of Hampton’s musical education came from his family but he did study at the local conservatory for a time. Despite playing music at a young age, he noted his practicing the trombone four to five hours a day was extremely important. J.J. Johnson, modern jazz’s most significant trombonist, who was part of the bebop wave, was Hampton’s greatest influence. He also lived in Indianapolis. Hampton added one of Johnson’s compositions “Lament” to his repertoire. Hampton recorded regularly from 1959 to 2016 and is considered one of the foremost trombonists of his time.

In an interview with the Post-Gazette before that 1993 show, Hampton said his goal was to interpret the music of his predecessors, not repeat it. “I think the thing that’s important as far as the music that came before is to have an influence from that music that’s obvious in what you do,” he said. “But just an influence. Not a copy. Their purpose in making the music was so that it would influence people after them to do something of their own.”

His wife of more than 50 years, the former Althea Gardner (ended in divorce), died in 2006. A son, Gregory Hampton, died in 2019. Survivors include his brother Maceo; three children, Lamont Hampton of Nashville, Locksley Jr. of Wilmington, N.C., and Jacquelyn Hampton of Atlanta; five grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.

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