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134 THE INSTRUMENTS, THE SOUNDS, THE PERFORMERS
ploit the xylophone as a jazz instrument as early as 1930. His first record was Moon Country with Hoagy Carmichael. In 1933 he recorded two jazz solos on xylophone and two on marimba (a fuller-sounding variant in the xylophone family, fitted with resonance tubes beneath each key). From 1934-6 he led several all-star jazz combos; from 1936 he had his own superb 12-piece band with vocals by his wife, Mildred Bailey.
During these crucial years Norvo became a musicians' idol. Nobody else even sought this particular sound and medium; and nobody, it was felt among his contemporaries, could have competed with his delicacy and finesse, the subtlety of his phrasing, the dancing grace of his rhythmic beat. Norvo was a master of a new jazz sound, bringing a new sense of insinuating understatement that had a charm unheard in any jazz produced until his day. Norvo continued to play the xylophone until 1943, when he made a switch to the vibraphone; even then he remained unique, using the instrument without the motor, thus avoiding the artificial vibrato of the electric current, retaining all the Norvo traits while gaining the ability to sustain notes.
The vibraphone, like the xylophone, was an instrument long associated with novelty music. It has the advantages of a sustaining pedal, resonating tubes under the keys, and small rotating fans, placed beneath the keys and operated electrically, to give the notes a synthetic vibrato. Usually its range runs upward two-and-a-half to three octaves from middle C.
Lionel Hampton, then a 17-year-old drummer with the Les Hite band that was backing Louis Armstrong, took up the vibraphone more or less by chance. There was a vibraphone in the studio the day he recorded Confessin with Louis in July 1930; he used it for a brief ad lib introduction. Hampton remained in obscurity until Benny Goodman found him leading a band in a Los Angeles ballroom in 1936, used him on some records, then persuaded him to give up his band and make the Goodman Quartet a permanent entity.
Hampton was not the first jazz musician associated with the vibes. Adrian Rollini, known earlier as a bass saxophonist, had been concentrating on vibes since the early 1930s but played so blandly and with such a minimal beat that his efforts