Guitarist Royce Campbell collected songs with happy themes for this trio recording. Featuring violinist Joe Kennedy (1923-2004), the session swings in the mood intended, with an acoustic timbre and an open resonance to match. String jazz gets too little attention; yet, the violin has been with jazz since its inception. Guitar and double-bass remain integral elements of the jazz mainstream today, but violin has been removed far away to its peripheral edges.
One of the first violinists to champion bebop, Kennedy toured on the US East Coast, and recorded in the 1940s with like-minded artists including pianist Ahmad Jamal, bassist Edgar Willis and guitarist Ray Crawford. In more recent times, he gave string jazz added credibility through Four Generations of Jazz Violin, matching wits with fellow violinists Johnny Frigo, Darol Anger, Matt Glaser and Sara Caswell. Get Happy, however, marks Kennedy's last recording. With Campbell and bassist Paul Langosch, he shows some of the joy that followed him everywhere.
Kennedy's plucked notes mark the music's syncopation clearly, as he opens the album with "I Want to Be Happy in an accented dash. Throughout the session, his violin takes charge. His bowed lines enable him to express seamless phrases that imply a broad range of emotions. Opening "Smile with an extended cadenza, the violinist draws passion back and forth. He interacts with Campbell and Langosch intently, encouraging a give-and-take attitude that allows the music to swell.
Each of the three artists takes a turn at the solo mic, reinforcing ideas that have been planted by one or the other. Campbell's guitar swings in a light and festive aura and Langosch's deep bass carries the trio's rhythmic bounce. Together, the three artists warm to a rewarding session; trading fours, taking extended rides and collaborating intuitively. As the album's title track states implicitly, there is plenty to be happy about when it comes to good jazz.
I Want to Be Happy; Pick Yourself Up; Joyous Blues; I
Royce Campbell: guitar; Joe Kennedy: violin; Paul Langosch: double-bass.
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