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Jeff Campbell: A Declaration of Optimism

Mark F. Turner By

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Bassist Jeff Campbell's A Declaration of Optimism's underlying theme of positivity is channeled into an engaging trio recording. An associate professor of jazz studies and contemporary media at the Eastman School of Music, Campbell divides his many duties between family, teaching, and performances with notables across the globe.

When a good thing works, it's best to stick with it. Campbell reenlists two first callers and assured leaders—drummer John Hollenbeck and saxophonist John Wojciechowski, who both appeared on the bassist's 2003 release West End Avenue (Musique Cambeaux). The trio's synergy is still intact as the nine compositions will attest— improvisational music rooted in but not confined to jazz, allowing the musicians to express themselves but breathe as one. Freedom is balanced by engaging melodies that commence with the spellbinding title track; Hollenbeck's helicopter-like percussion maneuvers juxtaposed against Wojciechowski's gentle intonations and Campbell's robust acoustic bass.

A reflective and pastoral melody paves the way in "Gregorian" but a certain hip swagger also makes an appeal on "Duplicity" through a slightly funky swing tempo. On this number, written by Wojciechowski, his tenor carves out the groove and then Campbell steps to the fore. With his sinewy declaration, he navigates the tempo like a captain at the helm of a ship.

"The Question Is," answered in a conversational tone, the aesthetic colored in ambiance—brush on cymbal, sensuous horn, and reverberating bass. A blues authenticates itself in "Wabash III," a John Scofield tune; Campbell's bass walks, talks, and leads the others. "South of Las Vegas" has a touch of the surreal, mixing both lighter and darker themes. The recording concludes with the blues party "Hoot Gibson," dedicated to Campbell's son and the late jazz bassist Dennis Irwin. It is the good times personified; a fitting conclusion to this solid release.

Track Listing: A Declaration of Optimism; Tower of Glass; By Another Way; Gregorian; Duplicity; The Question Is; Wabash III; South of Las Vegas; Hoot Gibson.

Personnel: Jeff Campbell: acoustic bass; John Hollenbeck: drums; John Wojciechowski: tenor saxophone.

Title: A Declaration of Optimism | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Self Produced


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