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NEA Jazz Master trombonist Slide Hampton has died

A gray-haired man plays a trombone.
New York Youth Symphony
Slide Hampton performing with the New York Youth Symphony 2003

From the age of 12, trombonist Slide Hampton spent his life in music — playing, composing, arranging and educating. He died Nov. 20. He was 89.

Composer, arranger and trombonist Locksley Wellington “Slide” Hampton had been an important part of the jazz scene since the mid-1950s.

One of 12 children born into a musical family, Slide Hampton was a rare left-handed trombone player. By age 12, he was playing with his family's jazz band, and by age 20, he was performing with vibraphonist Lionel Hampton's (no relation) orchestra.

Slide then became a major force as a player and arranger with trumpeter Maynard Ferguson's big band.

In 1962, Hampton formed his own octet, with horn players Booker Little, Freddie Hubbard and George Coleman. The band toured the U.S. and Europe and recorded on several labels.

After traveling with bandleader Woody Herman to Europe in 1968, Hampton settled in France, where he stayed very active on the European jazz scene.

As his reputation grew, he began writing original compositions and arranging music for bands led by drummer Art Blakey, pianists Tadd Dameron and Barry Harris, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra and drummer Max Roach.

Returning to the U.S. in 1977, Hampton worked with his World of Trombones ensemble (nine trombonists), played in a co-op quintet called Continuum, and was involved in several Dizzy Gillespie tribute projects. He also taught at a number of universities, including Harvard and DePaul.

Hampton won Grammy Awards for his arrangements, and one in 2005 for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. That same year, the National Endowment for the Arts presented Hampton with its highest honor in jazz, the NEA Jazz Masters Award.