Imagine playing vibes outdoors on a Brooklyn sidewalk, the resonators pulsing, a gentle breeze flowing. I’d love to do that.
The vibist in this picture, Lalo, discovered an unused set of vibes tucked away in a storage closet at her high school. She attended Berklee School of Music, developed into a sophisticated jazz-rock musician and released two albums, “Half Moon” and “Lalo,” both available on www.lalovibe.com. A native of Savannah, Georgia, vibist-composer-arranger Lalo settled in New York City and has performed in concert halls and jazz clubs throughout the US and Europe and received superb reviews.
Listen to these tracks from some of the most famous vibe players in jazz history — Lionel Hampton (1909-2002), who played with Louis Armstrong’s big band, in Benny Goodman’s Quartet and Sextet, then formed his own band in the 1940s; Milt Jackson (1923-1999), a member of the very cool and classically elegant Modern Jazz Quartet, and Cal Tjader (1925-1982), who played with pianist George Shearing before starting his own Latin Rock/Acid Jazz band.
“Flying Home,” by Lionel Hampton when flying from LA to Atlantic City with Benny Goodman, 1939.
“Softly as in Morning Sunrise,” played by MJQ. Music by Sigmund Romberg, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, 1928.
“A Night in Tunisia,” played by Cal Tjader (vibraphone), Mongo Santamaria (conga), Willie Bobo (drums and timbales). By Dizzy Gillespie, 1942 while playing for the Earl Hines Band.
Now hear the top vibists in Downbeat Magazine’s 59th Annual Critics Poll — Bobby Hutcherson (b. 1941), Gary Burton (b. 1943), and Stefon Harris (b. 1973).
“Stolen Moments” by Oliver Nelson. Bobby Hutcherson (vib), Herbie Hancock, (p), Ron Carter (b), and Tony Williams (d).
“Rhumbata (Part 1),” Chick Corea (p) and Gary Burton (vib).
“Body and Soul,” Music by Johnny Green, lyrics by Edward Hyman, Robert Sour and Frank Eyton, 1930. Jacky Terasson (p) and Stefon Harris (vib).
A vibraphone has a 3-octave range, is struck with two or four mallets, and its notes are amplified by resonators (aluminum tubes), and an electric motor that opens and closes the discs (or fans) inside the resonators to sound like a wide vibrato or tremolo. A xylophone is similar, but has a wooden bar keyboard. A marimba, which is tuned an octave lower, has a mellower sound, thinner bars of wood, plus resonators. All three play the role of harmony or melody.
The vibraphone was first marketed in the US in 1921, and joined the percussion sections of dance bands in the 1920s and 1930s. It is far more commonly played in jazz than classical ensembles, but there are a few classical pieces written for these instruments. Saint- Saëns used a xylophone in Danse Macabre (1874), Milhaud wrote a Concerto for Marimba, Vibraphone and Orchestra (1947), and Alban Berg used a vibraphone in his 1934 opera, Lulu.
I love this picture of Lalo, and would be very happy to sit on a lawn chair, sip a glass of wine, and listen to her play.