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Artist Profiles

Odd Man Out: Uncovering The Life Of Cal Lampley

By Published: December 31, 2008
Thus, the seventies saw him host a weekly, Sunday evening program on WCBM-AM entitled "Peabody Presents" in addition to contribute concert critiques for Maryland Public Television's show "The Critic's Place" for nearly eleven years. Inquired shortly after his former colleague's passing by the Baltimore Sun, the late film critic Don Walls remembered a knowledgeable and popular character who "got a lot of mail...and employed an expressive posture—always a cigarette in the air, very Noel Coward." Considering there have been relatively few African-American classical music critics on television, one surmises gaining acceptance and respect must have required tact and flexibility - those same qualities found in the best record producers. As matter of fact, he not only blazed trails as a black producer working with white artists, but also as one of the few black critics with such long tenure on television.

His later years saw him return to composing. Asked what his music was like stylistically, Adelberg Rudow explains; "Tonal, simplistic, often had a sense of humour, personal. His last piece was "Me, Myself and I," and somehow I think his thoughts about his mother was in music." "He wrote an Organ Sonata for me...," says expert lawyer and former keyboardist of jazz-funk band Both Worlds, E. Scott Johnson. "Cal liked all kinds of music, and would often say there are only two kinds of music: good and bad. He was not judgemental about genres." "(He) produced a recording for me...a "disco" version of "The Word" off the Rubber Soul album (by the Beatles) for me, and I think it could have been a hit, but it was never released."

Key West Symphony Orchestra's Sebrina Alfonso, then conductor for the Goucher Symphony, certainly felt close enough to his music to include one of his pieces in the Symphony's Fall 1994 programme. Other ensembles that have performed his scores include the Baltimore Wind Ensemble, the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra and, of course, Res Musica America, of which he was once a board member.

Promo Shot taken in 1994 for a Baltimore newspaper. Lampley with friend Vivian Adelberg Rudow (on horse) and two unidentified composers.

"I knew he was dying," reminisces Adelberg Rudow, "Res Musica America honored him at a concert for chamber orchestra music at Goucher College in Towson on May 1, 1994" That day—exactly 27 years to the day he produced Pat Martino's first solo effort—would become a special one. Thanks to a citation from Baltimore's then mayor Kurt L Schmoke, the day was proclaimed Cal Lampley Day. A promo shot was taken a few days before the said event (see photo). Lampley was 70. He would die 12 years later on July 6, 2006 at Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Baltimore from complications of Multiple Sclerosis, leaving no survivors.

From Leonard Bernstein's incursions into jazz, by way of Judy Garland and Richard "Groove" Holmes' "Rifftide" (arguably one of the fiercest B3 bonanza in history), Lampley's work ranged far and wide. Strong-willed yet able adapt to any given situation, Calvin Lampley fought dignified battles throughout his life. In many ways, he was indeed the odd man out.

Selected Discography

The Essential Mahalia Jackson - Mahalia Jackson (Columbia, 2004)

The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings (6 Discs Box Set) - Miles Davis And Gil Evans (Columbia, 1996)

The Essential Dave Brubeck - Dave Brubeck (Columbia, 2003)

Drum Suite - Art Blakey (Columbia, 1957)

Silver's Blue - Horace Silver (Columbia, 1957)

Miles Ahead - Miles Davis (Columbia, 1957)

Porgy And Bess - Miles Davis And Gil Evans (Columbia, 1958)

What Is Jazz? - Leonard Bernstein And the New York Philharmonic w/Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis etc. (Columbia, 1998)

The Last Of The Red Hot Cha Chas - Cal Lampley Orchestra (Warner Bros., 1959) Soul People - Sonny Stitt (Prestige, 1964)

Andy Bey And The Bey Sisters - Andy Bey And The Bey Sisters (Prestige, 1990)

El Hombre - Pat Martino (Prestige, 1967)

Listen Here! - Freddie McCoy (Prestige, 1968)

On Basie's Bandstand - Richard "Groove" Holmes (Prestige, 2003)

Photo Credit

Vivian Adelberg Rudow

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