Reviews that mention Roy Campbell

February 16, 2021


And Roy Campbell
577 Records 5819

Owl Xounds Exploding Galaxy

The Coalescence

ESP Disk 5050

After years of being relegated to the underground of underground, un-hyphenated Free Music is now recognized as a genre onto itself with more sessions being added to this canon. Not only are new discs and reissues multiplying but hitherto unknown sets, recorded but not released are also appearing as well. More than specific snapshots of a particular time and place, albums like 1999’s TEST And Roy Campbell and 2007’s Exploding Galaxy encompass sounds as valid today as when created. MORE

October 12, 2012

William Parker

Centering: Unreleased Early Recordings 1976–1987
NoBusiness NBCD 42-47

Something In the Air: Discovering Long Hidden Advanced Jazz

By Ken Waxman

When New York’s now justly famous, Vision Festival first took place in 1996 committed jazz fans greeted the event as if they were witnessing a full-fledged musical resurrection. So many advanced players of unbridled free form and experimental sounds were involved that the annual festival soon became a crowded week-long summer happening. Ironically – which was one reason for the Fest’s popularity – these probing sounds and its players were supposed to have vanished after the revolutionary 1960s, superseded first by Jazz-Rock pounders’ simple melodies and then jazz’s Young Lions who aped the sounds and sartorial choices of the 1950s – both of which had major record label support. Still bassist/composer/bandleader William Parker’s Centering: Unreleased Early Recordings 1976–1987 NoBusiness NBCD 42-47 aptly demonstrates, experimental sounds never vanished; they just went underground. As the 24 often lengthy tracks that make up this 6-CD set of hitherto unreleased material substantiates in its breadth of performances, sonically questing players were improvising and composing during those so-called lost years. But it took the founding of the Vision Festival by Parker and his wife, dancer/choreographer Patricia Nicholson, to provide the proper medium for this work. Major stylists such as saxophonists Charles Gayle and David S. Ware, vocalist Ellen Christi and trumpeter Roy Campbell, all of whom are represented in the set, would go on to mentor a multiplying groundswell of younger rule stretchers and future Vision Fest participants. Also, despite being professionally recorded, the conservative climate of the times, plus the cost of producing and distributing LPs, left the tapes used for these CDs stacked in performers’ apartments. Now the belated release of Centering fills in a blank in jazz history, equivalent to what coming across a cache of unreleased John Cage or Morton Feldman recordings would do. Included in the package is an attractively designed 66-page paperback book with vintage photos, posters and sketches along with essays discussing the background of the sessions, the musicians’ experiences and the New York scene. MORE

September 16, 2012

Stone Quartet

Live at the Vision Festival
Ayler Records aylCD 124

MMM Quartet

Live at the Metz Arsenal

Leo Records CD LR 631

Two high-quality CDs, recorded in a live setting with French bassist Joëlle Léandre as the unifying factor, are superficially similar in intent and personnel. Yet the multiple strategies each quartet brings to the extended selections demonstrate how unique sounds can result even in the most comfortable of surroundings.

Live at the Vision Festival captures the triumphant performance of what might be called Léandre’s New York quartet, filled out by trumpeter/flutist Roy Campbell, pianist Marilyn Crispell and violist Mat Maneri. Although recorded in France, Live at the Metz Arsenal, joins the bassist with two colleagues who teach at California’s Mills College – Alvin Curran on electronics and piano, best known for his notated work and membership in the MEV ensemble, and guitarist Fred Frith, whose entry into improv came through his Art-Rock bands like Henry Cow. Although MMM could stand for “MillsMusicMafia”, some Continental spice joins the West Coast greenery in the presence of Swiss soprano and tenor saxophonist Urs Leimgruber, who has been in other bands with Léandre, including Quartet Noir which also included Crispell. MORE

February 10, 2012

OutNow Recordings

Label Spotlight
By Ken Waxman

“Search for the sound you never stop hearing” is the motto of OutNow, a label launched last summer by three young Israel-born musicians, releasing six CDs simultaneously, with more skedded for 2012. The idea is to record innovative music, whether improvised or notated, electric or acoustic, and by younger or older creators.

The trio decided to follow this DIY approach, explains Brooklyn-based saxophonist and co-founder, Yoni Kretzmer, because, despite the multiplicity of labels, “there’s still a lot of music being missed and not reaching potential audiences. We try to create the right frame and aesthetic surrounding for any specific type of musical vision.” Similar to a live performance, he notes, OutNow CDs capture the music of the moment, which once preserved allows the artist to contemplate his or her next statement. “OutNow can also be seen as a kind of encouragement to get out of preconceived notions and conventions … Now,” he adds. MORE

December 5, 2011

Ehran Elisha/Roy Campbell

Watching Cartoons with Eddie
OutNow Records ONR 004

By Ken Waxman

Honoring and named for drummer Ed Blackwell (1929 -1992) – the “Eddie” of the title – who recorded similar brass/percussion duets with Don Cherry, this CD by trumpeter Roy Campbell and drummer Ehran Elisha is a triumphant reminder of how much can be achieved in this format if the right musicians are involved.

Elisha, with links to the Israeli avant-garde as well as the so-called downtown scene, and Campbell, best-known for his associations with bassist William Parker, have worked together in different configurations over the years. The trumpeter who was an admirer of Blackwell, and the percussionist who studied with the legendary drummer at Wesleyan University, have the advantage of also being multi-instrumentalists. Elisha plays bells, temple blocks, gong, toms and miscellaneous percussion plus drums here, while Campbell moves among trumpet, flugelhorn, pocket trumpet, flute and percussion. MORE

February 12, 2011

Nu Band

Live in Paris
NoBusiness Records NBCD 16

Lou Grassi Po Band

Live at the Knitting Factory Vol. 1 (with Marshall Allen)

Porter Records PRCD 4051

By Ken Waxman

Recorded almost exactly seven years apart, these high-class discs illuminate drummer Lou Grassi’s hard-hitting yet rhythmically sophisticated style in two advanced group contexts. At home with styles ranging from ragtime to free form, Grassi advances any project in tandem with other players, never drawing undue attention to himself.

A welcome document involving the drummer’s long-constituted – since 1995 – Po Band, Live at the Knitting Factory features flutist/saxophonist Marshall Allen, linchpin of the Sun Ra Arkestra, guesting with the 2000 version of the group. Besides Grassi, trumpeter Paul Smoker, trombonist Steve Swell and clarinettist Perry Robinson are featured along with the late bassist Wilber Morris. That same year, Grassi hooked up with three other mature players to form the Nu Band. Live in Paris, recorded in 2007, demonstrates the close cooperation which has allowed it to flourish. Although each Nu Band member is a leader in his own right – as are Po Band’s participants – the CD’s extended tracks demonstrate the group’s collegial if not musical harmony. Mercurial reedist Mark Whitecage and fiery brass man Roy Campbell have an ideal setting for their contrapuntal connections, while the drummer and solid bassist Joe Fonda – who plays in as many bands as Grassi – not only keep the music on an even keel, but solos impressively. MORE

July 8, 2010

Jameel Moondoc

Muntu Recordings
No Business Records NBCD 7-8-9

By Ken Waxman

Made up of then-young improvisers who would become better known, Muntu could be described as one of the supergroups of New York’s so-called Loft Era; if the self-aggrandizing term wasn’t antithetical to free music. This handsomely packaged set collects three CDs of the band in different configurations plus a 115-page soft-cover book with a Muntu sessionography and essays on the band, the Black Arts Movement and the Loft Era. Of course this would be mere pretty packaging if the sounds didn’t live up to the hype. Careful listening reveals that Muntu began well and only improved. Only its members’ other projects forced it to dissolve. MORE

March 8, 2010

Guelph Jazz Festival

Guelph, Ontario
September 9 - 13, 2009

Always populist, the annual Guelph Jazz Festival extended its support of outdoor improvisation plus interaction between Third and First World musicians in its 16th edition, without lessening its commitment to Free Music. Much of the outstanding music-making came from the later however, with American pianist Marilyn Crispell one standout.

Featured in American, European and Canadian group settings, Crispell’s playing was powerful and outer-directed at the River Run Centre concert hall, in a trio with two AACM stalwarts, seemingly ageless tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson and colorful percussionist Hamid Drake, whose rhythmic conception is comfortable in any context. Anderson often quivered or vibrated reflective lines that were paralleled with linear arpeggios or kinetic pedal-pushed frequencies by Crispell. Meantime Drake’s palm or stick movement conveyed all the rhythm. Climax was a version of Muñoz’s “Fatherhood”, built on ecclesiastical chording from the pianist, ruffs and rebounds from Drake and gospel-like preaching from Anderson. MORE

August 8, 2009

Roy Campbell Ensemble

Akhenaten Suite
AUM Fidelity 045

Named for Akhenaten IV, a fabled pharaoh who ruled Egypt around 1300 B.C., this seven-part suite, composed by brassman Roy Campbell premiered in this riveting live performance at New York’s Vision Festival. Although lodged firmly in the territory where modern jazz is tinged with Arabic echoes, the sensitivity of each player is such that trappings of mythologized exotica are avoided and replaced with first-class improvisational flights.

Serpentine themes that define many of the suite’s transitions are given impetus not only from Campbell – who manipulates tart trumpet expositions and gently muted flugelhorn coloration with equal finesse – but also by the contrapuntal spiccato sweep of Billy Bang’s violin. When Campbell’s distinctive half-valve effects aren’t paired in double counterpoint with Bang’s sobbing sul ponticello runs or hyperactive string multiphonics, then lower-keyed unison harmonies bond gentling trumpet runs with chiming vibraharp strokes from Bryan Carrott. Backbeat rhythms from drummer Zen Matsuura and springy double stops from bassist Hillard Greene pulse without becoming overbearing. Both keep the beat supple enough to undulate into different pitches and tones without it turning around or disintegrating. MORE

November 20, 2008

The Stone Quartet

DMG @ The Stone - Vol 1.

Staggeringly producing enough tonal colors and timbral delineations to suggest a much larger group, the Stone Quartet has created an improvisational opus with this CD – a faithful reproduction of a single set the ensemble played in the New York performance space.

This comprehensive exhibit of remarkable polyphony should come as no surprise, since the band consists of four innovators of in-the-moment music-making: Americans trumpeter Roy Campbell violist Mat Maneri and pianist Marilyn Crispell, plus French bassist Joëlle Léandre. Shorter, intuitive Maneri-Léandre and Campbell-Crispell duets are sandwich between substantial, extended quartet interactions that define the group’s strengths. MORE

October 23, 2008

Steve Swell’s Slammin’ The Infinite

Live At The Vision Festival
Not Two MW 780-2

Steve Swell Presents: Rivers Of Sound, Ensemble

News From the Mystic Auricle

Not Two MW 797-2

Middle age sounds good from Steve Swell. Not that age – or ageism – should be any factor in discussing music. But few American players had the gumption to affiliate themselves with Free Jazz during the Fusion and Neo-con drought years between the late 1960s and the early 1990s. So only a small number of mature stylists such as the trombonist are around, who not only continue the search for original formulae advanced by some older improvisers, but also possess the self-editing skills lacking in many younger players. MORE

November 23, 2007

Saco Yasuma

Another Rain
Leaf Note LNP 0208

Ras Moshe Quartet


KMB Jazz KMB-007

Geography is sometimes an extraneous element when it comes to creativity, as two accomplished New York-based saxophonists demonstrate on CDs with their own bands. Part of the fourth – or is it fifth or sixth (?) – generation of non-mainstream players, reedists Ras Moshe and Saco Yasuma sometimes work together in various ensembles – most notably trombonist Steve Swell’s big band – but their backgrounds couldn’t be more dissimilar. MORE

November 23, 2007

Ras Moshe Quartet

KMB Jazz KMB-007

Saco Yasuma

Another Rain

Leaf Note LNP 0208

Geography is sometimes an extraneous element when it comes to creativity, as two accomplished New York-based saxophonists demonstrate on CDs with their own bands. Part of the fourth – or is it fifth or sixth (?) – generation of non-mainstream players, reedists Ras Moshe and Saco Yasuma sometimes work together in various ensembles – most notably trombonist Steve Swell’s big band – but their backgrounds couldn’t be more dissimilar. MORE

May 22, 2006


Live at Sangha
Bmadish Records Gift002-2

Graphic Evidence
Asian Improv AIR0066

Four years and a set of assumptions separate these two dates, which display two views of violinist Jason (Kao) Hwang.

Superficially the Energy Music produced by the fiddler, trumpeter Roy Campbell and drummer William Hooker on LIVE AT SANGHA could be heard as Hwang’s electric side. The more meditative GRAPHIC EVIDENCE, which finds him partnered by soprano saxophonist Francis Wong and bassist Tatsu Aoki plus Wu Man on pipa on two tracks, can be heard as Hwang’s acoustic side. Actually they’re two sides of the same coin – an American one. MORE

December 5, 2005


Winter Birds
Between the Lines BTLCHR 71203

Konnex KCD 5141

Variations on a quartet theme, the different strategies working bands put across depending on whether they’re involved in a live or a studio situation are illustrated by these CDs.

Recorded on gigs in Rochester, N.Y., Amherst, Mass. and Chicago, LIVE showcases extended five performances from the all-star Nu Band quartet that allow its veteran members extensive space in which to let loose. On the other hand, WINTER BIRDS captures the quartet of bassist John Lindberg, with as stellar a line-up, working in a studio date that followed 13 European concerts in 15 days. Playing nine of the bassist’s tunes and one written by flautist Steve Gorn, the CD recreates in a studio the tightness of the touring quartet MORE

November 14, 2005


Spiritual Unity
Pi Recordings PI15

Taking any part of Albert Ayler’s oeuvre as a starting point for improvisation demands courage and nerve, since most of the saxophonist’s lines are as inextricably linked with his treatment of them as Thelonious Monk’s compositions were with his playing. Performing Ayler heads without a saxophonist is even more of a challenge, since the late Clevelander wrote lines that sit most comfortably under a reedist’s fingers. But the four members of the Spiritual Unity aggregation do this and more. MORE

June 6, 2005


It’s Magnificent, But It Isn’t War
Family Vineyard FV35

Live at Vision Festival
Ayler aylCD-009

Featuring familiar instrumentation, these East Coast quartets give you a glimpse of how so-called avant-garde improv is now either traditional – if that’s not an oxymoron – and evolving.

New York-based Exuberance, featuring some of the busiest advanced musicians in that city, has given itself the ongoing task of extending the sound John Coltrane and other energy players first articulated in the 1960s. With members hailing from Connecticut, Boston and the Apple, Cold Bleak Heat (CBH) mixes traditional – there’s that word again – energy improvisation with minimalistic tendencies influenced by European microtonalism. Each CD provides a valid answer to the overriding question of how to produce memorable free music in the 21st century. MORE

October 18, 2004


NY Midnight Suite
Clean Feed 20

Nile River Suite
Daagnim CD9

Products of a two-day bushman’s holiday in the Big Apple by Dallas-based trumpeter Dennis González, these CDs should irrefutably proves that non-New Yorkers can show Naked City denizens a thing or two.

González, who is also a schoolteacher and a visual artist, runs a supportive co-op organization in Dallas and in the past has recorded with other advanced hinterland players like New Orleans saxist Kidd Jordan and Chicago bassist Malachi Favors. Taking two suites of compositions with him, the brassman plus local drummer Michael Thompson recorded these two CDs in two days with different bands of New York’s finest. MORE

July 26, 2004


CIMP #300

Home Speaks to the Wandering
Innova 593

By looking sideways for inspiration to sounds that encompass the brass band tradition, intricate African rhythms, plus hearty helpings of modern jazz and pure improv, two youngish bands have come up with noteworthy CDs that reconfirm eclecticism.

Stacked up next to one another though, JALOLU may have a slight edge over HOME SPEAKS TO THE WANDERING. That’s only because the Gambian and Ghanaian inspirations of drummer Harris Eisenstadt are less familiar than the outcome of many Dead Cat Bounce (DCB) compositions, whose voicings draw on sources like Charles Mingus and the World Saxophone Quartet (WSQ). MORE

January 12, 2004


Fractured Dimensions
FMP CD 122

Leo LR 380

Change one man and you change the music, is an old -- and pre-feminist -- Free Music axiom. The converse is true as well, of course. Maintain a consistent combo line up and the sounds become that much more profound, since each player knows exactly what he can count on from the others.

Validating both sides of the equation are the quartets on these two CDs, each coincidentally featuring bassist William Parker. FRACTURED DIMENSIONS, whose title might reflect the recording circumstances, shows what happens when three members of a regularly constituted band -- Other Dimensions in Music (ODM) -- are forced by circumstance to play with someone else at the last minute. More than 78 minutes of music resulted from Alan Silva’s piano and synthesizer tones being grafted onto the sounds perfected by Parker, brassman Roy Campbell and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter in a Berlin concert in 1998 when ODM’s drummer was a no show. MORE

December 15, 2003


Splasc (h) WS CDH 855

Before the Dawn

Downtown, they say, is a state of mind. So is so-called downtown music, as these two live big band sessions demonstrate. With polychromatic ideas enlivening both groups, and with composers extending and distend the status quo, the points of congruence between SPONTANEOUS -- recorded in May 2002 at the epicentre of hip, Manhattan’s CBGB’s -- and BEFORE THE DAWN -- recorded 16 days later at a jazz festival in Hamamatsu, Japan -- are closer than you’d imagine. MORE

September 29, 2003


The Other Shore
Boxholder BXH 040

Nurnichtnur LC 5245

Analogous in instrumentation and players’ experience, these quartet CDs couldn’t be more dissimilar. Taken together as a matter of fact, they could serve as a textbook example of the differences between European and American free improvisation.

Consisting of well-traveled veterans of Continental music making, the three German and one British member of Quatuor draw from rock, New music and pure sound extensions as well as jazz when they play. Most of the band members have also been involved in interdisciplinary collaborations with artists, dancers and actors. MORE

June 16, 2003


Live from the Vision Festival
Thirsty Ear THI 57131.2

The next best thing to being there, this combination CD and DVD package offers a distillation of some of the outstanding performances from last year’s Vision Festival in New York’s Lower East Side. Lacking the name recognition of Newport, Montreux, or any other capitalist entity-associated international star festival, in its less than 10 year existence, Vision has still promulgated a unique artistic vision.

Built around the vision of bassist William Parker, it’s a place where pioneering avant gardists from the 1960s mix it up with younger players who are carrying on experimental ideals. It’s cross-cultural, national and international as well, with the musicians showcased on this session arriving from Germany, Korea, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis, Valencia, Calif., New Orleans… and Brooklyn, MORE

June 3, 2003


Live in Paris
Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1151

JAMEEL MOONDOC TENTET Live at the Vision Festival
Ayler aylCD-047

One of the most recognizable members of New York’s third generation Free Jazz players from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, alto saxophonist Jameel Moondoc, along with associates like bassist William Parker and trumpeter Roy Campbell, was everywhere during that epoch, usually leading his own band.

Like other non-commercial players though, he seemed to vanish -- some said into architecture -- shortly afterwards. But he’s been front-and-centre and recording again since the mid-1990s. These two live CDs, made up of his composition and arrangements, show that he still surrounds himself with notable sidemen and plays firmly in the Free Jazz tradition. They also may offer hints for his hiatus. MORE

January 22, 2003


Going To Church
AUM Fidelity AUM 024

Thirsty Ear THI 57122.2

Substantial slices of Maneri music, these two new CDs prove that while violist Mat Manner has internalized the quirky cogitation and execution of his father, reedist Joe Maneri, he’s not adverse to testing out some ideas of his own in different contexts.

Father-son improvisers are nothing new on the jazz scene and have ranged from boogie-woogie pianist Albert Ammons and his funky tenor saxophonist son Gene Ammons to mainstream pianist Ellis Marsalis and his progeny. But few offspring are as inculcated in his father’s music, as Mat -- born in 1969 -- who began playing music with his father when he was only seven. It’s hardly necessary to point out that Joe -- born in 1927 -- was no mainstream Marsalis. A jobbing musician for years with an interest in ethnic, microtonal and 12-tone composition as well as jazz improvisation, his talent finally got him a gig teaching theory and composition at Boston’s New England Conservatory in 1970. But his single-mindedness left him unrecorded until his belated emergence in the mid-1990s. MORE

June 7, 2002


Short Visit To Nowhere
Okka Disk OD 12043

Broken English
Okka Disk OD 12044

Three years after it was first organized and a year after it first toured, Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet (Plus Two in this case) displays, in these 2000 recordings, that it has become an exemplary example of how to adopt free improv to large aggregations.

With a mixed cast of seven Chicagoans, three members from New York state, a Swede and Brötzmann, a German, it has all the firepower of a traditional big band with its eight horns. Plus, the three-man string section and two percussionists ensure that not only is its bottom covered -- so to speak -- but that the strings can alternately meld with the horns or shore up the rhythm section. Also, while the German reedman wrote two of the compositions, he’s democratic enough to make room for one piece each by Chicago multi-woodwind player Ken Vandermark, Swedish reedist Mats Gustafsson and Chicago cellist/violinist Fred Lonberg-Holm. MORE

April 12, 2002


Live at The Bop Shop/Rochester, NY
Clean Feed CF 002CD

Definite truth in packaging if not in spelling, the cooperative Nu Band is new enough to have produced this memorable CD on its third ever gig.

Existing in an economic atmosphere where every improvising musician must have several irons in the fire and operate as a member of several groups simultaneously, this awkwardly named combo is made up of four veteran players who have been concerned with making it new since the mid-1970s.

Trumpeter Roy Campbell may have the highest profile, as one of his other gigs is with Other Dimensions in Music, the co-op quartet that also features bassist William Parker and multi-reedist Daniel Carter. But the brassman has also played and recorded with the likes of pianists Mathew Shipp and violinist Billy Bang plus leading his own aggregations. Bassist Joe Fonda has often worked with composer/performers such as Anthony Braxton and Wadada Leo Smith in the past, and is now involved in a variety of projects, most notably his well-received quartet with pianist Michael Jefrey Stevens. Drummer Lou Grassi has accompanied folks as different as ragtime piano specialist Max Morath and Arkestra mainman alto saxophonist Marshall Allen as well as leading his own PO band. Undeservedly the least known element, alto saxophonist Mark Whitecage spent years as featured sideman in German vibist Gunter Hampel’s Galaxie Dream Band, but lately has been working to raise his own profile. MORE

October 1, 2001


It's Krunch Time
Thirsty Ear THI 57107.2

In jazz a new form of purported fellow traveler has emerged. Fellow travelers were folks persecuted by venomous right wingers like Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950s not because they were so-called Reds -- a dubious proposition at best -- but because they moved in the same circles as suspected communists.

For this association, rather than ideology, many people suddenly had to struggle for work. It appears that jazz's neo-con cabal would like to practice their own brand of repressive McCarthyism on musicians who move in certain circles. MORE

March 19, 2001


Ethnic Stew and Brew
Delmark DE-528

Back in the early 1960s when the phrases "acid jazz", "crossover" and so-called "contemporary jazz" weren't in the mouths of every record company weasel, genuine soul jazz performances such as Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder" and Nat Adderley's "Work Song" became popular with no mass market preplanning.

This newest disc by trumpeter Roy Campbell's Pyramid Trio is a reminder of those days and will likely be as well received. Although he describes the band as being "about World Music with a touch of Jazz", that "touch" is more like a two heaping handfuls. More noteworthy, ETHNIC STEW AND BREWS can be put in the elite company of such funky jazz discs as those produced from the likes of Morgan, Adderley, Horace Silver and Bobby Timmons, because these groove moves flow generically from the brassman's overall conception.