Summary Judgment: Royce Campbell


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I just received a new CD from guitarist Royce Campbell, the third he's kindly sent me to review. While I owe him a longer writeup on his “Movie Songs Project" with Phil Woods, I wanted to share his name and my thoughts on his music sooner than I'll be able to do otherwise.

Campbell's latest release is “Solo Trane" (on Moon Cycle Records), a collection of John Coltrane tunes arranged for the guitar. Most musicians have enough trouble getting comfortable with Coltrane's often-complex harmonic ideas to skip trying to craft intelligent or creative arrangements -- it's all about the speed of soloing for too many Coltrane-wannabes. I've only had a chance to hear about half of the release, but it's clear Campbell is firing on all cylinders on these cuts. His treatment of “Naima" is magnificent; quietly passionate while still exploring all of the harmonic potentials of the song.

“Trane Track" gets a fun, strummed treatment to bounce melody and solo lines from ... I'm anxious to hear it again.

“The Movie Songs Project" (on Philology Jazz), a collection of movie soundtracks with bassist Bob Bowen, drummer Ron Free -- and a freelancing Phil Woods -- will satisfy bebop fans of such soundtrack faves as “Manha De Carnival" or “Laura." This group plays with classic cool, easily swinging while soloists tear through. Woods plays with a quiet intensity -- you can always count on quality improvisation with him, but he seems to be enjoying this outing a lot. I never thought of “Baby Elephant Walk" as much more than a novelty tune, but in the hands of capable musicians ...

The first listen I had of Campbell was his “Art of Chord Solo Guitar," which I wrote about for AllAboutJazz.com (you can read it here).

I found Campbell's solo work to be top-notch; it's great to see he isn't hindered in a band setting -- or by some of jazz's most challenging compositions.

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