Odd Man Out: Uncovering The Life Of Cal Lampley
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.