In this article, we’re taking a look at some of the most famous vibraphone players in history and some of their most essential recordings to add to your discography.
Stay tuned for some good vibes!
Born in 1908, vibraphone, xylophone and playing. was one of the early pioneers of using tuned as a instrument, forging a reputation as “Mr Swing” for his
Whilst remembered for the swinging style which also saw him work with singers like Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore and Billie Holiday, he was a truly forward thinking ; an early 30s recording session saw him record an early example of chamber , whilst he engaged rising star bebop musicians a decade later. and Dizzy Gillespie
Emerging onto the American Berklee College of Music, is arguably the preeminent of the modern era. in the 60s, fresh out of d
A long-time music educator, he favoured the 4-mallet style of playing (and the eponymous ‘Burton Grip’), moving on from the simpler 2-mallet style of previous generations to an almost -like ability.
Caught between the classic contemporary , he toured with many greats from both ends of the spectrum; George Shearing and Stan Getz in the early days, through to players like Antonio Sanchez, Julian Lage and Scott Colley. era of the 50s and 60s and what we’d now call the
Technique aside, he was a leading voice in the alongside Larry Coryell and won no less than 7 Grammy awards. fusion scene
Born in Detroit in 1923, emerged with perfect timing onto first the mid-40s bebop scene, then the following hard-bop and cooler styles.
Despite his impact on this radical new way of playing and improvising, he will always be remembered for what came next: the formation of the (1952) alongside pianist John Lewis, bassist Ray Brown and drummer Kenny Clarke.
The group brought together the various stylings of their founders, mixing blues and swing with more intricate harmony, and would tour (including reunions) through to the 1990s.
It’s hard to find a who doesn’t count as one of the main reasons they discovered the instrument.
In a story replicated many times in Louis Armstrong solos on the instrument and, when the trumpeter was in town in 1930 and heard him play, he hired him on the spot. history, he learnt
His profile (and that of the relatively new vibraphone) continued to grow throughout the 30s, with a long-running gig performing alongside , Teddy Wilson & Gene Krupa.
Known for his hard-swinging style, it was perhaps inevitable that Hampton would go on to lead his own group; something he did in style throughout the 1940s and 50s with his own big band, the . Orchestra
In a career with an array of highlights, it’s his song Flying Home (recorded in various constellations and on different labels) for which the wider world will most likely remember him.
It produced a discography influenced by hard bop, blues and more avant-garde playing along with a who’s who of the 1960s ; Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner, Grant Green, Joe Henderson, Lee Morgan and many more.
Hutcherson had moved back West by the end of the decade, but continued to record and tour internationally until his death in 2017.
Whilst a student at Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond, with whom he recorded briefly with on . State in the late 1940s he met
A hugely versatile and creative percussionist, he taught himself vibraphone whilst a student and his work as a become more prominent from the 1950s onwards.
Tjader signed with Verve in the 1960s and, under the watching eye of producer Creed Taylor, built an impressive collection of recordings which stretched right up to orchestral in scope.
Whilst this period was arguably his most prolific, continued experimenting, recording and touring until his death in Manilla in 1982.
is one of the most well-known and in-demand modern performers on this instrument, with the Penguin Encyclopaedia of noting that “in the select group of contemporary vibes Locke has claims to head the list”
As with many vibraphone players, he started out on and , before fusing the two interests into tuned .
Born in 1959, he burst onto the New York in his early 20s, working with legends such as Kenny Barron and Freddy Cole.
Over the following years, he’s carved out a reputation as both an in-demand sideman (Grover Washington Jr, Raul Midón, Cecil Taylor, Dianne Reeves, The Beastie Boys) and creative bandleader.
His own . projects have spanned the spectrum from intimate duo (notably with long-standing collaborator Geoffrey Keezer) through to full orchestral works taking in both classical and
As an educator, Locke is a faculty member of Manhattan School of Music and International Vibraphone Consultant at the Royal Academy Of Music in London.
Thanks for reading!
If you’re looking for more good vibes, there are of course many other great players we didn’t include on this list yet.
For a quick springboard, head to you listening platform of choice and check out , Steve Nelson, , and.
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