Monday, June 21, 2010

Summary judgment: Royce Campbell

I just received a new CD from guitarist Royce Campbell, the third he's kindly sent me to review. While I owe him a longer writeup on his "Movie Songs Project" with Phil Woods, I wanted to share his name and my thoughts on his music sooner than I'll be able to do otherwise.
Campbell's latest release is "Solo Trane" (on Moon Cycle Records), a collection of John Coltrane tunes arranged for the guitar. Most musicians have enough trouble getting comfortable with Coltrane's often-complex harmonic ideas to skip trying to craft intelligent or creative arrangements -- it's all about the speed of soloing for too many Coltrane-wannabes. I've only had a chance to hear about half of the release, but it's clear Campbell is firing on all cylinders on these cuts. His treatment of "Naima" is magnificent; quietly passionate while still exploring all of the harmonic potentials of the song.
"Trane Track" gets a fun, strummed treatment to bounce melody and solo lines from ... I'm anxious to hear it again.
"The Movie Songs Project" (on Philology Jazz), a collection of movie soundtracks with bassist Bob Bowen, drummer Ron Free -- and a freelancing Phil Woods -- will satisfy bebop fans of such soundtrack faves as "Manha De Carnival" or "Laura." This group plays with classic cool, easily swinging while soloists tear through. Woods plays with a quiet intensity -- you can always count on quality improvisation with him, but he seems to be enjoying this outing a lot. I never thought of "Baby Elephant Walk" as much more than a novelty tune, but in the hands of capable musicians ...
The first listen I had of Campbell was his "Art of Chord Solo Guitar," which I wrote about for (you can read it here).
I found Campbell's solo work to be top-notch; it's great to see he isn't hindered in a band setting -- or by some of jazz's most challenging compositions.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A look at musicians' hard lives

If you'd like to get a pretty realistic glimpse of the life of a jazz musician, turn in to HBO's "Treme," set in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Several of the show's primary characters are musicians, jazz or other, who eke out a living in one of America's most musical cities. If you can't make it here, can you anywhere?
Wendell Pierce stars as trombonist Antoine Batiste, marching in funeral lines by day and gigging anywhere he can at night. In one early episode, a taxi driver holds onto his horn while Antoine checks in on a gig, getting an advance to cover the fare.
Rob Brown's New York-based Delmond Lambreaux walks out of a gig at Small's in one episode to head south.
The show has featured appearances by Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Elvis Costello, Steve Earle, Sammie Williams, Donald Harrison Jr., Galactic, Trombone Shorty Andrews, Deacon John, The Pine Leaf Boys, and the Rebirth and Tremé Brass Bands for additional local flavor.
The show doesn't gloss over some of the hard realities of being a musician -- for example, both Antoine and Delmond are estranged from their families initially (Antoine seems to have a couple ...), which adds a smack of realism.
If you really want to see life on a jazz tour, though, check out the blog saxophonist Froy Aagre wrote for here. There's a bit of culture shock as she discovers the difference between being a professional musician in Europe and one in America, but it's also great to see things through her eyes ... and ears.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Summer's near and jazz is in the air

Last night launched John Henry Goldman's summer series of perfomances at Labyrinth Books on Nassau Street in Princeton, which will continue each Wednesday night through July. If you missed it, you can catch John Henry, with Luke Abruzzo, Gary Schaeffer and Mike Ipri at Tre Pieni in Forestal Village at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night.
Friday, you can catch the VooDudes at the South Brunswick Jazz Cafe at 8 p.m., Dick Gratton at the Chambers Walk Cafe in Lawrenceville from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. And next weekend, enjoy the Wendy Zoffer Jazz Group at the Princeton Shopping Center from noon to 3 p.m. June 12, or help Stanley Jordan raise money for CASA Mercer County at the Salt Creek Grille in Forrestal Village on June 13 (the same day Fred Hersch and Joel Frahm are at the Lawrenceville School as part of the Princeton Festival).
There's so much great music to enjoy in Central Jersey -- be sure to get out and show your support for your favorite musicians.