Royce Campbell's The Art of Chord Solo Guitar extends his considerable collection of solo guitar releases, this time working on a series of standard tunes.
Campbell's extensive résumé includes stints with everyone from Marvin Gaye and Eddie Harris to Henry Mancini, and it's clear he's used his professional time to gain the skills necessary to create interesting and fresh arrangements on these tunes. Harmonizing such pearls as "In a Sentimental Mood" or "The Girl from Ipanema" requires an extensive knowledge of chordal harmonyand, to keep the music interesting, an ability to hear the possibilities for improvisational lines around the melody.
All of which Campbell does very well. His "Girl from Ipanema" mostly forgoes the bossa beat to focus on the possibilities in the harmony, which he exploits with Joe Pass-inspired II-V figures. The result is an arrangement that feels familiar without riding clichés.
Campbell uses such devices from Pass, Barney Kessel-informed double stops, and other approaches popularized by the genre's masters to show why chord solo guitar is such a rich field in which to work. Few instruments, and fewer instrumentalists, are capable of providing melody, harmony and bass accompaniment simultaneously.
It's easy to fall into repetitious fills, however, but Campbell generally avoids such trappings, in a collection that doesn't fully exploit the bass possibilities, but focuses, instead, on melody lines and chordal harmonization.
His take on John Lennon and Paul McCartney's "Yesterday" should be transcribed by any student studying chord solos. Without adding too many fills or straying too far from the familiar melody, Campbell shows what is possible with six strings (an improvised version can be seen in the video below).
The quality of Campbell's guitar work is sterling, although the set list suffers a little from a lack of rhythmic variety. This is common on releases intended to be listened to as background music, but doing so here would miss out on Campbell's virtuosity. Another shortcoming is the inconsistent recording settings: tracks vary noticeably in noise reduction settings and volume.
Overall, Campbell should find many more fans with his Art of Chord Solo Guitar. It's a terrific representation of working standards and the state of the art.
Personnel: Royce Campbell: guitar.