By TONIA HILL
Hyde Park resident and saxophonist, composer, and educator, Darius Hampton is one of many musicians that have been featured this summer at the Hyde Park Farmers Market that are in Harper Court, 5235 S. Harper Court.
Hampton born and raised in Chicago began playing instruments in elementary school.
“I started playing in grade school I went to Beasley Elementary School,” Hampton said. Hampton learned to play the clarinet first and then transitioned to playing the saxophone a dream of his as a child watching the Saturday Night Live band on television.
“I wanted to play the saxophone originally because of Saturday Night Live. I wanted to be that guy [saxophonist] on Saturday Night Live,” Hampton said.
Music is in his DNA. Though his immediate family does not play instruments, his paternal grandfather and his siblings were musicians and traveled throughout the Midwest.
His great-uncle trombonist Slide Hampton and a distant relative, vibraphonist Lionel Hampton were both jazz musicians. His father’s cousin was one of his early teachers.
Hampton attended Whitney Young High School and joined the jazz band. He refers to his time there as the “launching pad” for his musical career.
He drew inspiration from popular music across all genres growing. It was not until he attended college at the University of Illinois Urbana – Champaign, where Hampton studied composition, that he began to examine music on a deeper level.
Some of his favorite musicians are John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley and Sonny Rollins.
Hampton recognized that the roots and origin story for popular genres were linked to Chicago.
“I didn’t know how pivotal jazz was in Chicago until after I started to study music,” Hampton said. “It was big here [in Chicago] before it was big in New York. Before New York, there was Chicago and New Orleans. The connective thread between all of that is Louis Armstrong [jazz musician] the music kept following him wherever he went. Chicago is huge in terms of development for this music.”
Gospel music also originated in Chicago.
“Gospel music is huge here. We have the Gospel Fest here [in Chicago]. “Chicago blues style informed rock n roll,” Hampton said.
He earned his Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Hampton worked as a music librarian at the Chicago Jazz Ensemble at Columbia College Chicago for a band led by trumpeter Jon Faddis.
His job entailed ensuring that the ensemble ran smoothly. He also for a short time served as Education Director and helped in shaping the Louis Armstrong Legacy Program and Celebration. The program sent teaching artists to Chicago Public Schools to provide instruction for their music programs.
Hampton has been featured on a number of albums.
His debut CD “Hear Me” was released in 2015. He performed the solo project at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival that same year.
He noted that this performance was one of the best experiences he had performing.
Last week, Hampton performed at the Hyde Park Farmers Market. Over the weekend he led the Darius Hampton Quartet at Gary’s Jazz in the Park August 13th in Gary, Ind.
“Jazz is in me. It’s a verb more than it is a noun it’s a way to do something,” Hampton said.