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Artist Profiles

Roy Campbell 101: From Where He Came

By Published: June 10, 2005
So he began contending with the imposing lineage of jazz trumpet playing, including his father (also a gifted trumpeter who once played with Ornette Coleman). Coleman later told Roy, "Man, your father had a style like 'Fat Girl' [Fats Navarro]. Campbell added, with pride, "he could play! Campbell listened endlessly to the masters, digesting fragments of their solos that he fancied. Eventually he thought to himself, "You got Lee Morgan, Roy Eldridge, Harry 'Sweets' Edison, Dizzy, Woody Shaw, all these great cats that play this want to play trumpet, you've got to come up with something different... After stretches of eight-hour practice days and studies at Jazzmobile with Morgan and Dorham, a friend came to hear him play and said, "Roy, I could hear you from down the street and I knew that it was you playing. As important as it is to have your own identity in jazz, this was clearly a breakthrough. During this time, "guys wouldn't mind that you were influenced by somebody, but back then they said you had to get your own stuff. Campbell stands tough on this issue today as well, "you really have to have something to say...we don't need anybody out here that is playing just to be playing. If you don't have something unique to contribute, do something else.

In '74, after leading a band called Spectrum, Campbell and pianist/vocalist Radha Reyes Botofasina formed the Spirits of Rhythm, which featured at various times the likes of Charles Neville, JT Lewis, Kenny Kirkland, Rodney Jones, Kenny Washington, Bobby Watson and Cecil McBee. Five years after picking up the horn Campbell had already racked up experience playing with Dannie Richmond, Bill Saxton, Wilbur Ware, Pharoah Sanders, Carlos Garnett and others. But it was in '78 he met his kindred spirit, bassist William Parker, and soon after joined Jemeel Moondoc's Ensemble Muntu. He went on to perform and record with David Murray, Sahib Shihab's Big Band, Klaas Hekman (while living in the Netherlands from 1990-92) and many others. In '91 Campbell recorded his first album as a leader, New Kingdom, which he calls "Roy Campbell 101 as it touches on the many musical bases Campbell regularly spins off from to this day. New Kingdom was for him a way of humbly presenting "another order of the music. Something he feels continues to this day.

Despite the fact that Roy Campbell has been one of the most active musicians on the scene for several decades, his name is absent from three of the major texts on jazz that have been released in the past several years: Alyn Shipton's A New History of Jazz, Gary Giddins' Visions of Jazz and, most surprisingly, Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler's The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz. This can be accepted, but only when realizing that perhaps Campbell's brightest star has yet to shine, since he has plenty of music up his sleeve that surely will turn heads.

At 40 Campbell suffered a stroke and almost died. Astonishingly, six months later he recorded his second album as a leader, the brilliant La Tierra del Fuego (Delmark). This speaks volumes for Campbell's notion that music holds the healing power of the universe. After all, it was always the music that Roy Campbell lived for, and still does.

Visit Roy Campbell on the web.

Recommended Listening:

· Roy Campbell - New Kingdom (Delmark, 1991)

· Roy Campbell - La Tierra del Fuego (Delmark, 1993)

· Roy Campbell/Pyramid - Communion (Silkheart, 1994)

· Other Dimensions in Music - Now! (AUM Fidelity, 1997)

· Roy Campbell - Ethnic Stew and Brew (Delmark, 2000)

· Roy Campbell - It's Krunch Time (Thirsty Ear, 2001)

Photo Credit
Peter Gannushkin

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