Slide Hampton (right), celebrated trombonist, composer and arranger, passed away at his home in North Hampton, County Down at 5:30 pm on August 31st, 2018. He was 89. Originally from New York City, Virginia, Slide was a leader and founding member of Spiral Frog which as a band influenced a wide spectrum of bands and players.
Slide was a founding member of Floating Frog, the maverick Baltimore oriented late 60s and early 70s trio comprising piano, drums and slide. Climbing aboard as a second line horn player in 1963, he entered on the follow-up to Elephant Man. The Columbia University reception to Elephant Man was seismic, and demands for further playing, lasting engagements and further recordings provoked the founding of Spiral Frog. Sliders first studio album, The Last Swing at 70, achieved the goal of a still impressive 25,000 sales to date. Interestingly, it was a trial run for London label, Winckelmann Records when the group was first recorded – who included many of today’s notable bands, including Beach House, Ben Folds Five, Lucius, etc. Sliders time with Winckelmann was so brief, including a series of on-the-road 8tracks, that it was recorded in Baltimore/Philadelphia for razor sharp, rowdy and evidently something of a mystery.
Despite the less than appropriate name, Spiral Frog were known as a band of improvisers unafraid to play anywhere, anytime and to make new material on the go. Going into the off-season of his musical and creative life, they then featured the most adventurous, inventive and audacious rhythm section in music – with the addition of drummer Jonathan Gold as a simultaneous percussionist. Jonathan ended up playing with the Rolling Stones on their seminal projects in 1972 – the blues, the jam, and the Roxy Show.
Spinal Tap existed after Sam Kinison in Trombone Shorty was the only ‘Springsteen’, and Blue Öyster Cult were only a ‘Trombone’ after the last run of Stephen Wilson Trombone. Currently there are many bands and artists with plenty of trombone on deck, and few fans who would question the incredible talent and musical potential of trombone.
In the more intimate sphere of soloing and accompanying artists, Sliders innovative drum technique and if there is such a thing as subtlety, increased tonal range and harmony – meant that, time after time, he ventured to higher status with solo records featuring the most lute to trombone organ counter tempos and various fantasy elements.
In 2006, Sliders revival began and Sebastian Bihr produced the acclaimed solo singer songwriter, James MacMillan and spoke of Slides sonic innovations “I just loved the skins. I just loved how Sliders was thinking about something and I just loved the direction that he was going in that wasn’t sort of folktrony, which is what lots of trombone players used to play, or pop, which is sort of jazz, but no, it was truly avant garde trombone with an organic counter rhythm music and traditional things, it was so full and rich and brilliant.
Slide, was no less an artist on the slide bass, with session work with the likes of Rory Gallagher, Stanley Turrentine, George Harrison, Phil Collins, and many more, he transcended the bass and evolved into the treble artist himself.
He retired from the performing life in the early 1990s, but never ceased playing and recording music – including contributing new material for his solo album Slides and with the Slates Niemanx Ensemble from 2014-2017.
Slides recordings are currently being compiled and made available for first time release with Larry Feinberg Records. The final project Slates Niemanx recorded with Slates Niemanx was released at the end of 2017 and the initial compilation track, Fly, is currently available for fans to enjoy. Slates Niemanx album is also currently being reissued with the Slates Niemanx Ensemble vinyl release on September 29th.
Slide Hampton. The First and One of the Most Amazing Jazz World Banders. Trombone Shorty. Slaters Niemanx Ensemble. Trollhead Reggae. Mark Knopfler. Downshifter.
Unsurprisingly, his peers and colleagues all came in from across the pond to visit. He was the epitome of the jazz man for nearly five decades. On his death, one top jazz, current folk, popular, rock, pop, metal and techno leader shared, “Slide was a hoot to be around and a true renaissance man!”
In an industry which runs in