Trumpeter Roy Campbell's music has always traveled the globe and been inspired by world music, be it Afro-Cuban, Asian, Jamaican, West African, the blues or free music. But while he plays with these various influences, Campbell is always firmly planted in the jazz tradition. For Akhenaten Suite, he travels not only the world but back in time. Dedicated to the Egyptian pharoah of the 18th dynastyhusband of Nefertiti, and perhaps father of Tutankhamunthe music was written in the fashion of a Duke Ellington or Gil Evans suite.
Campbell's ensemble includes vibraharpist Bryan Carrott and drummer Zen Matsuura, who worked with him on New Kingdom (Delmark 1991), violinist Billy Bang, and bassist Hillard Greene, a favorite of saxophonist Charles Gayle.
The music was commissioned by, and premiered at, the Vision Festival in New York in 2007, where this recording was made. The enthusiastic crowd coaxes our heroes forward on each track, even though the suite needs no cheering section. Campbell's writing is more Miles Davis/Gil Evans than Sun Ra. As with his previous work, he maintains a heavy amount of swing in his melodies.
The disc opens with an upbeat vibe, its snaking melody touching all the players' strengths. Campbell and Bang intertwine before the leader unwinds some clear, naturally flowing flugelhorn. With that, the direction of the suite is stated. The audience can relax, knowing this will be a thoroughly enjoyable ride. Onward with a nice processional, "Aten And Anarna."
After a brief intro by way of a recorder, the meat of the disc is presented on "Pharaoh's Revenge," which is in two parts. The players stretch out, allowing the listener to savor the sonorities of Bang's unplugged violin. Soon Campbell soars over both Bang and the rhythms laid by Carrott, Matsuura, and Greene. His sound, always graceful, takes on a real sheen of majesty here. The two featured players, Bang and Campbell, deliver the goods throughout.
"Sunset On The Nile" is the closing piece, and the feel is quite luxurious. Roy Campbell has composed a fully formed suite, one which is worth repeated listening sessions.
Personnel: Roy Campbell: trumpet, flugelhorn, recorder, arghul; Billy Bang: violin; Bryan Carrott: vibraharp; Hillard Greene:
bass; Zen Matsuura: drums.