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.

These unusual instruments aren’t used as rote exotica, but to open up the music. A piece such as “Faith Offers Free Refills” for instance, may include hand claps and naker slaps plus flute fluttering, in a narrative that echoes both native Indian and subcontinent Indian music, but its climax involves brassy cries, moderated flams and a conclusive rim shot.

The title track ,recalling Blackwell’s insistence that Elisha join him in watching his granddaughter’s cartoon videos before beginning a lesson, has a light-hearted, child-friendly melody, advanced with wood whacks and hi-hat clicks. Also Campbell’s high note exposition doesn’t stop him from lyrically recapping the theme.

Blackwell isn’t the only honoree either. “The Dizzy Roach” is a remarkably restrained and outstandingly linear salute to two of jazz’s flashier soloists – trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and drummer Max Roach. Meanwhile “For B.D.” – venerating brass man Bill Dixon – has Campbell hand muting his trumpet to create pressurized neighs and strained growls like “B.D.” as Elisha wallops cow bells and wood blocks.

With nine high quality tracks, it’s likely any one of the honorees would have been impressed with the music on this CD. The listener surely will be.

Tracks; They Enter through the Ears; Watching Cartoons with Eddie; For BD; Aesthetic Encounters part one; Interlude Dude; Aesthetic Encounters part two; The Dizzy Roach; Faith Offers Free Refills; October

Personnel: Roy Campbell: trumpet, flugelhorn, pocket trumpet, flute, percussion; Ehran Elisha: drums, bells, temple blocks, gong, rote toms, percussion

—For New York City Jazz Record December 2011