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Crossover attempt falls flat

For the Love of Music
For the Love of Music
By Lionel Hampton

MoJazz / Motown Records: 1995

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This review first appeared in the November 17, 1995 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

Age is certainly no barrier to hipness or a willingness to explore new territory. Thus, it's not the attempt to cross over to contemporary pop audiences that causes jazz legend Lionel Hampton's latest release to fall flat. More, it's the fact that Hampton himself sounds so uncomfortable. He is certainly no Miles Davis here, nor fellow vibraphonist Roy Ayers: Instead, his forays into pop on "For the Love of Music" are workmanlike and competent, but never catch fire.

The cuts that work best are those that pair him with young, up-and-coming jazz talents like saxophonist Joshua Redman and trumpeter Wallace Roney, or more established artists like bassist ron Carter or drummer Roy Haynes. And his pairing with the Tito Puente Latin Jazz Ensemble also shows sparks.

But the pure pop cuts, with Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan, seem forced, with neither Hampton nor his cohorts ever hitting a groove. At heart, Hampton remains a jazzman – a pioneering hero of his genre. It's for that he'll be remembered, not serving as backing musician for Chaka Khan.