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Greg Campbell

By Published: September 23, 2004

AAJ: Can you talk about some of the projects you have done, some of them that maybe you have enjoyed more than others or maybe some that you just found to be more interesting?

GC: That makes me think. Well, there's a trio that I play with with Mike Bisio and Rob Blakeslee that I really enjoy. We have only done a few things.... That's a really interesting situation because it is a little less about timbral explorations in a way. Rob writes compositions that are more thoroughly composed than, say, with the Ficus Trio. It's fairly open, the structure, and then we can kind of go wherever we feel like going. So, those things are kind of related. I like working with both of those groups.

AAJ: The Ficus Trio, that's with....

GC: That's with Gust (Burns) and Gregory (Reynolds). I can think of one particular gig that was really interesting which was Project W with Wally Shoup and Brent Arnold. We had Bob Rees playing percussion. It was at a space called Vital 5 which I think was an old bank or something, kind of over on the Denny Triangle, I think that's the neighborhood. They were knocking the building down and so this was the last anything that was going to be held in the building that was not a deconstruction event. So we sort of figuratively tried to demolish the building in a way. For some reason that idea really was kind of a nice inspiration. There were some places where we actually got into sort of really heavy, intense, loud sounds that may be approximating something coming down. And then there were some other spaces, too, that were a little less intense. That's another musical group that I like working with. It's got a little bit of a free form operating structure, but Brent and I will kind of function as a rhythm section. We'll do, you know, kind of rock beats. It's hard to say, you work with different people and they bring different things out of you in different situations. Things sort of come to me. I'm not an intense planner and I encounter things or they encounter me. It's not like I'm in some intensive way really searching for that one thing that I am looking for. I like responding to whatever happens at the moment, so that happens in different ways with different groups and different people.

AAJ: Playing in the moment, that is something that I think a lot of people miss. They learn to play one certain form of music, or maybe even a couple of different forms, but they miss that playing in the moment aspect. You know, what's really happening around you versus where you are going next.

GC: Right, and I think one down side of jazz pedagogy, you know, jazz in the academy, is that people study things in a really deliberate way, which is okay too. Coltrane got this rap a lot about playing the same things over the same chord changes even though they were things that he had worked out and they were very unusual but they were very formulaic. I don't think that necessarily is a bad thing because if somebody as inspirational as Coltrane can make that work then it's a viable musical approach. But I think that a lot of times you study or you transcribe a solo or you work on a particular pattern or lick and then you pull it out at just the moment when you know that it will work, which is fine, and that's a valid musical approach but sometimes that makes for music that is supposed to be in the moment that is a little less "in the moment". It's like taking your one lick and then you go back to the time when you worked it out and you bring it into the present, so you're not really in the moment.

I think that even in improvised music that happens in a certain way but you don't know when you might need to bring it out, where like if you worked out a 2-5-1 pattern or something in a certain key you know that you'll be able to use it over this tune at this time. In improvised music you have less of a chance of getting stifled by the things that you've practiced. But that's not to say you can't be inpired and playing in the moment in any kind of setting. Even somebody playing the oboe part in the Bach B-Minor Mass can do it in a really inspiring way if they are in the moment.

AAJ: Given some of the things that you have done in the past, do you feel comfortable with where you are musically right now?

GC: I feel right now like I would like to do a little more writing, composing, and putting groups together which is something I haven't really done in any deliberate way. Part of that has to do with the fact that I've been working on degrees for a long time and I've been working and I have a family and that, you know, I have certain responsibilities I have to take care of in regards to that. I'm moving toward a point where I think I'll be able to do more musical work that I feel is a little more of my own and, you know, use people too that have used me in their groups. It's a different level of collaboration but it's something I'd like to move more toward. I have done some amount of composing over the last seven or eight years, but it's sort of way in the background. I'm just trying to get to the point where that's a little more part of what I'm doing all the time.

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