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The Vibraphone
went almost unnoticed. Hampton, personally and musically, was a dynamo, infusing power and magnetism into his own work and all that surrounded him. The sparks generated by his pin-wheel solos on fast tempi contrasted strikingly with the reflective yet fast-thinking extemporizations on ballads. Hampton and Norvo, from 1936 to 1943, remained unique, each with his own instrument, his own concept of dynamics and swing, his own choice of a suitable background. While Norvo recorded with the emancipated swing arrangements of Eddie Sauter as a gentle backdrop, Hampton from time to time assembled all-star ses­sions to record with men from the Goodman, Basie, Ellington and Calloway bands.
By 1943-4 Norvo was going through a transitional phase both as a bandleader and instrumentalist; Hampton, leading his own big band, was starting down the firecracker-strewn path that led to rock and roll mania and to ever-reduced moments of the old vibes-virtuoso magic. The time had come for a challenger. He arrived in 1945 when Dizzy Gillespie brought Milt Jackson to New York. For several years, playing with Gillespie and vari­ous bop units, Jackson's accomplishment appeared simply to be the transference to his instrument of the characteristics of bebop. Not until the early 1950s, when the experiments began with John Lewis that led to the foundation of the Modem Jazz Quartet, did his musical id emerge from the bop superego—a laconic, ap­parently slow-thinking approach, in which the slackening of pace actually derived not from his cerebration but from the use of a reduced speed on the fans of the vibraphone motor. The effect was a langorous, meditative quality that made the listener more aware of the vibrato's presence where normally it was only sensed subconsciously.
Not long after "Bags" Jackson established himself on the scene there was a sharp detonation along 52nd Street announc­ing the arrival of Terry Gibbs. With this newcomer, two years Jackson's junior, came the bop era's Lionel Hampton: a tremen­dously vital figure symbolized by an ineluctable beat, flying mallets, and an unerringly swift ear for chord changes. Gibbs' supremely extrovert personality, born of innate enthusiasm rather than conscious showmanship, earned him national prominence