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Artist Profiles

Odd Man Out: Uncovering The Life Of Cal Lampley

By Published: December 31, 2008
In mid November 1942, following numerous on-base and off-base skirmishes between local citizens, Policemen, white officers and black GIs (a few of them partisans of the particularly vocal "Double V" movement), at least two black soldiers and a civilian were killed in Papago Park in Phoenix, Arizona. Then, despite the Army's intelligence relating recurrent, racially-based acts of violence previously registered in the region, the turbulent division was "ordered for retraining" to Camp Van Dorn in Centreville, Mississippi on May 26 1943. There, in one of the most racially-tense state ("state of blood" is the expression used by Corporal Anthony J Smirely Jr of the 364th in a missive to the Philadelphia Tribune's editor,) at a time when the Jim Crow laws ruled, that Pvt William Walker was beaten and gunned-down by local authorities on May 30, 1943 in front of the camp's entrance. Their hardships, ill treatment and demands already known by Army and government officials, it appears unequivocal the men of the 364th endured the cruelties of war not in combat, but through their own fellow citizens and hierarchical superiors. For example, not counting the frequent verbal and physical abuse aimed at reminding them of their inferior status, the men of the 364th were not housed in barracks like their white comrades, but in military tents and primitive outdoor stockades. Under these conditions, it comes as no surprise that immediately following the May 30 murder, many 364th servicemen went AWOL to either, avenge their assassinated cohort(s), or seek asylum to other US Army Induction Centers. By December 26, 1943, those remaining from the 3,000 initially enlisted were transferred to Seattle, and eventually shipped out on garrison duty to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. Although different lists of personnel exist, data concerning Pvt Lampley has yet to come available, rendering his whereabouts hardly traceable. In light of his resume, we can surmise he not only was stationed in Centreville (maybe also in Phoenix), but in Alaska as well.

GI Bills in hand, he moved to New York City in 1946 to pursue his education at the Juilliard School Of Music. He graduated from the prestigious institution in 1949 with an Artist Diploma in piano after three years under the rigourous tutelage of Irwin Freundlich (piano) and Richard Franko Goldman (composition). The zenith of his rather brief career as a concert pianist was undoubtedly his debut at Carnegie Hall in 1953. Though his 20-year stay in New York latterly proved somewhat disappointing on a performance level, his good fortune was about to strike as he entered the auspices of Columbia's Masterworks as a tape/music editor.



Lampley (far right) with fellow Res Musica America composers.

Supervised by label head Howard Scott (himself a methodical and meticulous producer) as well as by Vin Liebler (one of the engineers involved in the development of the 33-inch Long Playing disc,) he would spend thousands of hours in Masterworks' editing rooms before being recruited into A&R by producer George Avakian as his assistant. Dubbed "Columbia's Teddy Wilson" by Benny Goodman after jazz's own forbearing leader in interracial mixing, he spent the next few years following Avakian to both Warner Brothers Records and RCA-Victor, working with both black and white artists. The year 1957 and much of 1958 saw him work on such seminal sessions as Horace Silver's Silver's Blue (Columbia, 1957), Art Blakey's Drum Suite (Columbia, 1957), Mahalia Jackson's Live In Newport, 1958 (Columbia, 1958), as well as Dave Brubeck's Great Concerts (Columbia, 1958) and Jazz Impressions of Eurasia (Columbia, 1958). Inheriting Avakian's duties following his departure to WB in early 1958, he also produced two of Miles Davis' most critically-acclaimed, top-selling outings for the major: Porgy & Bess (Columbia, 1958) and Miles Ahead (Columbia, 1957), the latter as assistant producer. Porgy & Bess would become the pinnacle of his producing career.

Wanting to pursue the same type of sound as "Summertime" on Miles Ahead, Lampley had pitched the idea of doing Gershwin's opera to Davis, who concluded, not without initially rebuffing the proposition, his was a most meritorious endeavour to undertake. With Gil Evans arranging and conducting a stellar studio cast, they would go on and make one of the most important orchestral recording in jazz history. Discussions caught on tape during both the Porgy and Miles Ahead sessions show the temperamental, and at times abrasive, trumpeter getting along admirably well with his newly appointed producer. As a matter of fact, listening to The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings: Alternate And Rehearsal Takes (Disc 6) (Columbia, 1996) reveals the reassuring, deep-voiced Lampley as a rather open-minded, understanding personality and the star trumpeter at his most relaxed.


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