Flying Home

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Flying Home (m. Lionel Hampton, Benny Goodman, w. Sid Robin)

Excerpts from an article on Lionel Hampton by David Rickert, dated 22 August 2005, published at allaboutjazz.com:

Flying Home had its genesis while Hampton was in the Benny Goodman band. A gig in 1939 required them to fly from Los Angeles to Atlantic City, the first time Hampton had been on a plane. He began whistling a tune while waiting for the plane to taxi. Goodman asked him what it was, and Hampton said, “I don’t know. We can call it ‘Flying Home,’ I guess. (Hampton later confessed that the tune was a way for him to keep his mind off of the upcoming flight.) They played it for the first time with the Goodman Quartet that night and later that year Goodman recorded the first version of the song, featuring a memorable solo from pioneering guitarist Charlie Christian. Hampton liked the song so much that it became his theme once he left Goodman.

In his autobiography Malcolm X described the first time he heard “Flying Home. “People kept shouting for Hamp’s “Flying Home and finally he did it. I had never seen such fever heated dancing. In his autobiography, Lionel Hampton tells the story of the time at the Apollo when a guy who had smoked too much marijuana launched himself from the second balcony when the band played the song, apparently in the mistaken belief that he could “fly home. In fact, Hampton’s hottest number had such a reputation for whipping crowds up into a frenzy that one time in Connecticut police forbade him from playing it for fear that the balcony would collapse. And all this on the vibes, an instrument that is considered one of the lightweights on the bandstand, and one that continues to have a marginal presence in jazz even today.

Benny Goodman Sextet – October 1939. A second song follows on the video: Bewitched (Rodgers & Hart) by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra. I don’t know when this version of Bewitched, a 1940 composition, was recorded. Jazzstandards places Flying Home also in its 1940 standards despite the fact that this recording, the first of the song, was made in 1939. I presume this is due to the lyrics having been added later. Jazzstandards says:

The first recording of “Flying Home” was made in October 1939 by the Benny Goodman Sextet which represented one of the early examples of electronics in jazz with Charlie Christian on electric guitar and Hamp on motorized vibraphone.

The sextet: Benny Goodman (cl), Fletcher Henderson (p), Charlie Christian (elg), Lionel Hampton (vib), Artie Bernstein (b), Nick Fatool (d)

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Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra — New York, 26 May 1942. Musicians: Lionel Hampton (vibes), Ernie Royal (trumpet), Marshall Royal (alto sax, clarinet), Eddie Barefield (tenor sax), Illinois Jacquet (tenor sax), Jack McVea (baritone sax), Milt Buckner (piano), Irving Ashby (guitar), Vernon Alley (bass), Lee Young (drums), Eddie “Gogo” Hutchinson, Mannie Klein, Jack Trainor (trumpet); Fred Beckett, Sonny Craven, Harry Sloan (trombone); Ray Perry (alto sax)

Reportedly the most famous version of the song. The tenor sax solo by 18 year old Illinois Jacquet is considered a progenitor of the “honking” style of sax solo which soon became a regular feature of rhythm and blues, and played a big part early rock ‘n’ roll.  Wikipedia says,

The song immediately became the climax for the [Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra] live shows and Jacquet became exhausted from having to “bring down the house” every night. The solo was built to weave in and out of the arrangement and continued to be played by every saxophone player who followed Jacquet in the band, notably Arnett Cobb and Dexter Gordon, who achieved almost as much fame as Jacquet in playing it.

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Glenn Miller & the Army Air Force Band – Miller’s band while he served in the Army Air Force, 1942-1944

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Illinois Jacquet and His All Stars – Russell Jacquet, tp; voc (-1); Henry Coker, tb; Illinois Jacquet, ts; Arthur Dennis, bs; Sir Charles Thompson, p; Ulysses Livingston, g; Billy Hadnott, b; Johnny Otis, d. — Los Angeles, July 1945

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Ella Fitzgerald - with Vic Schoen and His Orchestra, recorded 4 October 1945

Reviewer Stuart Nicholson at Jazz.com said:

Recorded in 1945, but unreleased until 1947, “Flying Home” is a key track in Ella’s huge discography and a watershed in her career. It was the product of over two years’ experimentation during live performances in extending the boundaries of jazz singing, and remains among the finest jazz vocal records of all time. In it she harnessed scat singing for its musical potential rather than exploring any subjective dimension of her singing. While on the one hand it was rightly hailed as a vocal tour-de-force, on the other it showed, for those who cared to listen, that as early as 1945 she was already aligning herself with the new thing in music: bebop. It would turn out to be one of the most important career moves of her life, but one that would take a couple of years to be fully realized.

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Ted Heath and his Orchestra – undated, evidently recorded within the span 1948 to 1952

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Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra - 1957, on The Big Record, a 1957-58 television series

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The Billy Taylor All Stars are filmed for an episode of the TV series The Subject is Jazz1958.

Ben Webster: tenor saxophone
Buck Clayton: trumpet
Benny Morton: trombone
Billy Taylor: piano
Eddie Safranski: bass
Ed Thigpen: drums
Mundell Lowe: guitar

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