Apartment Fire Doesn't Slow Hampton

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"All that's left is the pedal," said Lionel Hampton, describing the destruction of his vibraphone in a fire that burned out his Manhattan apartment on Tuesday.

The blaze began when a halogen lamp exploded, sparking a fire that spread quickly throughout the veteran jazz musician's Lincoln Center area dwelling.

The losses were massive in the blaze, which eventually injured more than two dozen residents and firefighters in the 42-story building. "There's nothing left but a black, soggy mess," he says. "Even the walls are gone."

Hampton's entire wardrobe was burned, as were all his memorabilia, his record collection and the complete music library for his big band. One wall, which contained numerous autographed photos with a succession of American presidents stretching back to Dwight Eisenhower, was scorched to a cinder.

Hampton, 83, who was in an adjoining room when the blaze broke out, survived the fire with no injuries. Hampton, who had a mild stroke earlier this year, was moved safely in a wheelchair from his apartment into a hotel across the street. But he was left with no clothing. Congressman Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), a longtime friend, came to the rescue.

"He came right over and said he was going to get me some suits," Hampton says. "And he did. He sent over a beautiful blue suit, a tuxedo, and shoes, socks and underwear. I needed everything."

Hampton needed the new apparel Thursday when he traveled to Washington--along with Rangel--to receive his National Medal of the Arts from President Clinton.

Despite the dramatic losses, Hampton will continue his busy schedule of appearances, pointing toward next month's visit to Moscow, Idaho, to participate in the annual Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival.

He takes a stoic view of the disaster. "Nothing ever happens without a reason," he says, "so I know there's a reason for this. And if I don't find it out today, I'll find it out tomorrow."

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Piano Week: Fans of piano jazz can set their calendars for a busy week, starting almost immediately. Tonight, Billy Taylor and Ramsey Lewis present a concert of duo piano jazz at the Alex Theatre at 8, as well as at the Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton on Saturday at 8 p.m. The marvelous Kenny Barron finishes up a six-night run at Catalina on Sunday, and the gifted young Billy Childs completes his stint at the Jazz Bakery Saturday. Next Tuesday, Geri Allen--a performer who has worked with everyone from Ornette Coleman to Ron Carter--checks into Catalina with the Wallace Roney Quintet for a six-night appearance.

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Around Town: The incomparable Joe Williams makes a return appearance at Pepperdine University's Smothers Theatre on Sunday at 3 p.m., (310) 317-3868. . . . At virtually the same time, pianist Lincoln Mayorga will perform music by Gershwin and others in a Da Camera Society concert in the lobby of the historic Wiltern Theatre, 1:30 and 3 p.m., (310) 440-1351. . . . Sunday night, the Phil Norman Tentet, featuring such eminent L.A. jazz masters as trumpeters Carl Saunders and Ron Stout, pianist Bob Florence and bassist Tom Warringon, plays a one-nighter at Catalina Bar & Grill. . . . On Monday Catalina kicks off its 1997 Young Artists' Jazz Series with a performance by UNI3, a trio of young players from the Eastman School of Music. . . . The Battle of the Big Bands brings the swing era sounds of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Gene Krupa to the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday, (800) 300-4345, and the Alex Theatre in Glendale on Wednesday[, (800) 233-3123. . . . Washington High School's Performing Arts Department hosts its fourth annual fund-raising concert, "Jazzin' at the Prep," on Jan. 18 at 12:30 p.m. Included in the stellar lineup are Buddy Collette, Plas Johnson, Billy Higgins, Billy Childs, George Bohanon and numerous others; (310) 288-5710.

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Free Jazz: Pianist Jon Mayer appears with bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer Paul Kreibich on Saturday afternoon at 1:30 in a free concert at Pedrini Music in Alhambra, (213) 283-1932. . . . The Vinnie Golia Quintet appears tonight and next Friday in free jazz concerts at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5:30 p.m., (213) 857-6522.

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Jazz on the Tube: On Jan. 29, PBS' "Great Performances" will present "Robert Altman's Jazz '34." The hourlong program features such young jazz luminaries as Joshua Redman, James Carter, Cyrus Chestnut and others in performances filmed during the making of the director's film "Kansas City."

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