Slide Hampton, jazz trombonist and master arranger, dies at 89

Slide Hampton, the jazz trombonist who was especially revered for his masterful arrangements, has died. He was 89.

Critically acclaimed as a gifted soloist and an exceptionally talented composer and arranger, Hampton was an NEA Jazz Master whose career spanned decades in the evolution of jazz.

Hampton died Thursday, Nov. 18, at his home in Orange, N.J., as confirmed to WBGO by his son, Lamont Hampton.

While his playing earned him accolades in jazz circles — critic Gary Giddins once proclaimed him “perhaps the most underrated bebop virtuoso soloist alive” — it was his arrangements that brought him wider acclaim. Hampton won two Grammy Awards, in 1997 and 2004, for his arrangements for Dee Dee Bridgewater and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.

Born in Jeannette, Pa., in 1932, Hampton began playing in his family’s jazz band, The Duke Hampton Band. Early in his career, he played with the likes of Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Johnson and Melba Liston. As his reputation grew, he went on to work with ensembles led by Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Woody Shaw, J. J. Johnson, Max Roach, Curtis Fuller, Hank Mobley and more. Hampton also recorded and toured with his own groups, including an octet with Freddie Hubbard and George Coleman and a quintet with Jimmy Heath.

Hampton would later become a music educator, holding positions at Harvard University, the University of Massachusetts, De Paul University, and Indiana State University.

In all, Hampton recorded more than 40 albums as a leader, a dozen as an arranger (for Maynard Ferguson, Dexter Gordon, J. J. Johnson and more) and many others as a sideman.

In 2005, Hampton was named an NEA Jazz Master, the highest honour for jazz musicians in the U.S.