There are some albums which, on the very first listening, create an immediate auditory union with the musician. Credit ability, musicality, interpretation, song choice, or a blending of each, Royce Campbell
's solo guitar tribute to the music of John Coltrane
, Solo Trane
, is one of those albums. It crackles with energy and creative force as Campbell winds his way through the Coltrane book, adding evocative originals along the way. Campbell, a Washington D.C.-based veteran guitarist whose albums are always musically rich, is especially animated on this first-rate outing.
With the exception of the Mongo Santamaria
classic, "Afro Blue" (a tune Coltrane so aptly interpreted that for many, his rendition is still the standard), most tracks are Coltrane compositions from the late '50s and early '60s era. Campbell explores the upbeat "Bessie's Blues" with a mixture of structural chording, chord melody and some tasty straight solo lines. It's a telling opening as it highlights one of Campbell under-appreciated talentsnamely that his right hand is as creative in it's rhythmic grooves as his left hand is harmonic choices. Even in the ballad "Naima," Campbell slips in right hand gestures that add variety and freshness. That's not to say there is anything but inspired harmonic interpretations here as the playing on cuts such as "Central Park West" and "Resolution" prove. Tellingly, Campbell himself notes his debt to pianist McCoy Tyner
, which is duly displayed throughout but especially on tunes like "Impressions" and "After the Rain."
There are also three original compositions based in the Coltrane vibe, which expertly hit their mark. "Trane Track" evokes the openness of a A Love Supreme
(Impulse!, 1965) era tune with Campbell's playing centering around wide chord forms and ringing harmonics as he weaves in solo lines. "Minor Blues for Trane" is equally compelling as it soulfully explores the form with a nuanced appreciation. "Free Trane" is the most melodically esoteric, deriving its power from the more free harmonic structure and a more intense dynamic. Each original shows Campbell's compositional chops and thorough understanding of the Coltrane feel.
Interestingly, Campbell has chosen to record this album using an acoustic guitar which the liner notes explain was a purposeful decision to echo the acoustic nature of the "legendary Coltrane quartet." Though not his primary instrument, the crisp acoustic edge adds an intensity to the playing that would be lacking in the flatter tone of a traditional jazz guitar, and Campbell rummages through the overtones and harmonics available to his instrument with evident pleasure. Solo Trane
is an album rich in understanding and execution. Campbell's bold step of paying tribute to the legendary musical explorer armed only with an acoustic guitar pays immediate and successive musical dividends. And as Campbell's playing investigates the atmospheric realms of the Coltrane sound, the tunes stay tethered to the ears with an inventive rhythmic feel. With this release, Campbell has captured the essence of Coltrane's music.