Bassist Jeff Campbell's A Declaration of Optimism is a beautiful album with a lot to say, and manages to say it all in a very quiet way.
Beginning with the title track, Campbell's piano-less trio, also featuring tenor saxophonist John Wojciechowski = 15550}}, and drummer John Hollenbeck, establishes an intimate connection between the three instrumental voices. Appropriately, Campbell's voice is dominant, setting the tone on each track. Wojciechowski's ebullient tenor saxophone occupies the foreground, but it's always clear that Campbell is leading the way.
On "South of Las Vegas," Campbell opens with a steady, insistent pulse. Hollenbeck lays the rhythmic foundation on his cymbals, while Wojciechowski plays a mournful melody. The whole effect is beautiful and desolate, much like a stretch of desert highway in the middle of the night.
The album largely consists of Campbell's original compositions, all of which are excellent, with Wojciechowski contributing the rhythmically tricky "Duplicity," a track reminiscent of Miles Davis' 1960s quintet. The other non-original is a version of John Scofield's "Wabash III," which is based on the folk song "Washbash Cannonball." The trio's version contains a magnificent solo from Campbell, as well as some exciting interaction with Hollenbeck.
Each track is a quiet conversation between the three men. No one shouts because there is no need to. Every word and nuance can be easily discerned in the space created by these three extraordinary artists. A Declaration of Optimism is a splendid addition to the canon of piano-less trio albums.
Personnel: John Wojciechowski: tenor saxophone; Jeff Campbell: bass; John Hollenbeck: drums.