Jazz news - Peter Farrall

A couple of months ago I spent a few minutes explaining to a member of the audience that the instrument on stage was not a xylophone but a vibraphone and then, of course, why vibes are so popular in some styles of jazz. Xylophone types of instrument, with a series of tuned wooden slats on a frame and struck with mallets have been around for centuries, in Asia and then Africa and eventually Europe. By the mid nineteenth century a standardised version began to appear in European classical orchestras as, for instance, in Saint-Saen’s Danse Macabre.

The beginning of the twentieth century saw a flurry of compositions featuring xylophone by the likes of Stravinsky, Bartok and Stockhausen and the instrument also found its way into the world of jazz, being particularly suited to ragtime styles and vaudeville presentation popular in the early nineteen hundreds. Meanwhile, the Leedy Manufacturing Company in the USA began developing a similar instrument but with tubular “organ pipe” type of resonators and butterfly discs driven by an electric motor to give a vibrato effect - the Vibraphone was born! Other companies began production under various alternative names, Vibraharp, Vibraceleste and such.

By the nineteen twenties there had been many technical improvements and vibes were common in dance orchestras and smaller groups, popular because of their wide scope of effects from bright, ringing bells to subtle, intimate softness. Probably, the defining moment for vibes in jazz came when drummer Lionel Hampton and Louis Armstrong during a 1930s recording session came across a set of vibes. Louis was intrigued by the sound and asked Hampton if he could play them. Sure, said Hamp (he already played Xylophone) so they featured the sound in “Memories of You.” The dual careers of Vibraphone and Lionel Hampton were truly launched in the swing era and many musicians have since joined the ranks of celebrated “vibraphonists.” We have our own British contingent of vibists past and present; Victor Feldman who subsequently moved to the USA, Tubby Hayes combining tenor sax and vibraphone talents, Anthony Kerr now teaching at the Royal College of Music and so many more including Roger Beaujolais who will be featured at the April session of Pershore Jazz Club with the Wendy Kirkland Quintet. A chance to experience Wendy’s inimitable vocal and piano talent plus Roger’s brilliant vibraphone technique all in one sophisticated package.

The Wendy Kirkland Quintet featuring Roger Beaujolais (vibes) Wednesday, April 27th in the Function Room, Pershore Football Club. Doors open at 7pm, music at 8pm Admission £10 to include a raffle ticket.

Book in advance and pay on arrival pershorejazz.org.uk tel: 01527 66692/07487 606964 find us on Facebook