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Roy Campbell: Songs & Themes & Akhenaten Suite

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Spring Heel Jack
Songs & Themes
Thirsty Ear
2008


Roy Campbell
Akhenaten Suite
AUM Fidelity
2008




Trumpeter Roy Campbell is presented here in two starkly different contexts yet his playing greatly enhances both. His work on Spring Heel Jack's Songs & Themes is meditatively translucent, subtle timbral shifts placing each note inside whatever context John Coxon and Ashley Wales provide. The first two notes he plays on "Church Music" demonstrate the depth of feeling with which he imbues each phrase, sliding expressively down a fifth and allowing just a hint of vibrato. By contrast, "For Paul Rutherford" finds him in the company of a lone drum, exhorting, moaning and shrieking through muted horn in a stunningly beautiful expression of grief and exaltation. His flute work is equally fine, among the high points of what is largely a disappointing offering from SHJ. There are certainly moments of tonal interest combined with harmonic beauty, such as the harrowing final track, and saxophonist John Tchicai's playing is more rawly emotive than ever, but the whole is merely a sum of the parts; the heady, rhythmically diverse but pulse-driven days of Masses and Amassed are missed.

Campbell's seven-part composition Akhenaten Suite—modal explorations inspired by Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep—is much more successful. While attending the 2007 Vision Festival where this album was recorded was somewhat underwhelming, the piece proves to be quite discogenic. Campbell and violinist Billy Bang's improvisational styles are flexible but remarkably similar as they spur each other on to one masterful solo after another. As with the SHJ album, there is plenty of room for meditative passages, as heard in the ethnically-inflected opening to "Pharaoh's Revenge," but a unifying energy underlies the three microsuites, most likely due to the presence of an audience. Vibraharpist Bryan Carrott, bassist Hilliard Greene and drummer Zen Matsuura maintain a cool authority throughout, a nice contrast to the heated solos emanating from the front line.

Both discs use what might be called transcultural timbres but those on Akhenaten Suite serve a better-founded structure and more integrated form. However, Campbell enthusiasts will enjoy both.


Tracks and Personnel

Songs & Themes

Tracks: Church Music; Dereks; With Out Words; Eupen; For Paul Rutherford; Folk Players; Silvertone; Claraa; 1,000 Yards; Antiphon; At Long Last; Garlands.

Personnel: Roy Campbell, Jr.: trumpet, pocket trumpet, flugelhorn, flute; John Coxon: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, sampler, violin, glockenspiel; John Edwards: double bass; Tony Marsh: drums; Orphy Robinson: vibraphone; John Tchicai: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Ashley Wales: samples; J. Spaceman: electric guitar; Rupert Clervaux: drums; Mark Sanders: drums.

Akhenaten Suite

Tracks: Akhenaten (Amenophis, Amenhotep IV); Aten and Amarna; Pharaohïs Revenge (Akhenaten) Intro Part 1; Pharaohïs Revenge Part 1; Pharaohïs Revenge (Tutankhamun) Intro Part 2; Pharaohïs Revenge Part 2; Sunset On The Nile.

Personnel: Roy Campbell: trumpet, flugelhorn, recorder, arghul; Billy Bang: violin; Bryan Carrott: vibraharp; Hilliard Greene: bass; Zen Matsuura: drums.


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