Lionel Hampton recorded this super CD (and volume two) in Paris during a 1955 European trip and both CDs are unusual in that they feature long tracks, up to twelve minutes on 'A la French' (and fourteen for 'I cover the waterfront' on the second CD) which allow the musicians to develop their improvisations.
The ten musicians with Hampton are French except for Benny Bailey and Nat Adderley from the Hampton orchestra and they all contribute some beautiful playing. One reason I like these two discs is the rhythm section (Sacha Distel is on guitar) which never intrudes but supports the rest of the group.
Hampton's playing throughout is superb and on the ten minute 'Zebu' he plays with just the rhythm section, improvising with Distel and pianist Rene Urtreger for extended choruses. The uptempo 'Voice of the North' and 'Crazy Rhythm' gives everyone a chance to shine, even French horn (was this a jazz first?) player Dave Amram.
I originally bought these tracks on two French Felsted LPs in the late fifties and played them into the ground so I'm particularly pleased that they are now on CD. This is swinging jazz, so good that you don't want it to end!