|| Roy Campbell Pyramid
Cat. No.: SHCD139
Roy Campbell trumpet, fluegelhorn, pocket trumpet, cornet, percussion
William Parker bass, percussion
Reggie Nicholson drums, percussion
1. Communion (William Parker) 9:15
2. Vigilance (Roy Campbell) 9:18
3. Chant for Don Cherry (Roy Campbell) 12:04
4. Air Pockets (William Parker) 14:32
5. Blues for Albert and Don Ayler (Roy Campbell) 15:22
6. One for Hannibal (Roy Campbell) 14:09
Total time: 74:43
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"The music and perhaps also the recording technique, cause the sound to be
utterly woven together and this promotes listening to the whole picture rather
than to the details, which I find attractive. We hear how the group, tightly together,
works itself forward. Campbell's impressions and influences come from different
cultures and parts of the world, but this music is incontrovertibly modern American
Leif Carlsson, Gränslöst, March 1995
"That trumpeter Campbell is a part of New York's downtown scene is apparent
in the fire and adventure of this trio session. Parker and Nicholson, two other
major voices on the scene, are phenomenal, often keeping both melody and rhythm
going while Campbell shows off out front. Together the three create beautiful
Jerome Wilson, Option, July 1996
"At whatever point you hit on a circle, it's still a circle," says trumpeter Roy Campbell, whose Communion is his third outing as a leader and his debut recording with his Pyramid trio of Campbell on trumpet, pocket trumpet, fluegelhorn and various percussion instruments, William Parker on bass and Reggie Nicholson on drums.
There's much in the lineage of Campbell's music, from a lyricism reminiscent
of Gil Evans' rich orchestrations for Miles Davis on Sketches of Spain, to the
textures and colors he found in trumpeter Booker Little and the Spanish music
from boleros, flamencos and classical trumpet of Rafael Mendez, all of which Campbell
exhibited with elan on his previous outing La Tierra del Fuego on Delmark.
But for Campbell, music is not just a straight line marked by the give and take
of innovators on trumpet from King Oliver and Louis Armstrong to the legacy of
hard bop witnessed in its precursors Roy Eldridge, Fats Navarro and Clifford Brown,
onward to its practitioners Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw. It's
a circle, a union among musicians, who see in their predecessors and in their
contemporaries, a shared hearing of their instrument of choice.
Music is a circle for Campbell, a communion of ideas, a spontaneous reaction
to the spirit of free improvisation often found in rehearsal sessions, during
which a hidden line or phrase can give rise to ideas for a composition. It's a
circle that encompasses, in Campbell's case, experiences as diverse as the soundtracks
of Zorro, The Arabian Nights, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and the folk music
traditions of Brazil, Japan, Africa, Spain and Middle Eastern trance music.
It's a music which speaks to world music traditions as championed by avant-garde
jazz musicians Don Cherry, Hanibal Marvin Peterson, Albert and Don Ayler, whom
Campbell pays tribute to on Communion.
In the late '60s and early 1970's, Campbell began to listen to trumpeters Bill
Dixon, Peterson, Cherry and Don Ayler, whose sense of spacing, esoteric phrasing
and range of harmonic experimentation freed him from his previous work in Manhattan
Community College big bands and those led by Ghenghis Nor and Carlos Garnett.
Campbell did work with Woody Shaw, Jemeel Moondoc, Cecil Taylor and Sonny Murray,
but this is not the context to mention it.
Campbell's studies in a Music in World Culture course with multi-reedist Yusef
Lateef at Manhattan Community College in the early '70s encouraged him to listen
to the folk music indigenous to India, Africa, Spain and Japan. Before long Campbell
was heading downtown from his Bronx residence to the New York Public Library for
the Performing Arts in Lincoln Center to research recordings closer at hand.
In the music of Don Cherry, Campbell found an enchanting realisation of his understanding
of a jazz legacy imbued with the folk traditions of world music. Campbell first
heard Cherry on Ornette Coleman's landmark recordings for Atlantic, including
The Shape of Things To Come and Free Jazz. Cherry's departure from Coleman to
record on his own showed a music that embraced a respect for other cultures. From
Cherry's Relativity Suite, to Organic Music Society (Caprice) and Eternal Now
(Sonet/Antilles), Campbell gleaned a liking for odd instruments, infectious folk
melodies and polyrhythms and pentatonic scales.
Campbell first met Cherry at Slug's, a former East Village club, prominent during
the late '60s, early '70s loft scene in New York, that included the Tin Palace,
Sam Rivers' Studio RivBea and Studio We. Years later, Campbell finally got the
chance to perform with Cherry's big band at the Sound Unity Festival, produced
by Peter Kowald and William Parker, at Kwando m the mid-'80s.
Nicholson entrances us with a processional rhythm underneath Campbell's piercing
pocket-trumpet solo, which often borders on Middle Eastern tonalities, to open
"Chant For Don Cherry". Parker creates a textural web to support the multi-cultural
beats, reminding us of Moroccan, Arabic and West African rituals and leading into
a rambunctious drum solo filtered with clashing gongs. Parker's bass solo to follow
is nothing short of mesmerising in its subtlety and resonance as it builds back
up to the opening theme.
In 1990, Campbell began to spend a lot of time in Holland, where the slow, even
pace of life allowed him to compose, go to the theater and watch movies, the latter
interest dating back to Campbell's childhood fascination with horns in the character
Igor from the films "Son of Frankenstein" and "Ghost of Frankenstein". Campbell
still collects horror movies at his house in the Bronx alongside shelves of world
"I could gauge my time in Holland, which inspired me to compose more," says Campbell.
"Here in New York, it's all about paying the bills. I get calls spontaneously
about playing gigs. Over there you knew ahead of time that you had work. You could
engage your time accordingly.
While in Rotterdam, Campbell toured with bass-saxist Klaas Hekman's group and
began to score film music for German director Rosa von Pranheim's "Survival In
New York". Money never available to him in New York came steadily in Holland with
commissions for a brass band project and for a big band rehearsal group. He held
workshops at conservatories there and played with musicians from Holland, Africa,
Turkey and Syria, which expanded ever more his interest and knowledge of world
music. During these years, Campbell and saxist Zane Massey sat in with Cherry's
big band in Rotterdam, an experience that taught Campbell to deal with different
rhythms and modes of playing.
In the mid-'60s, Campbell would go to a 42nd Street music store to buy discount
records by Albert Ayler and Frank Wright at 99 cents a shot. In their music, he
began to hear a link between traditional jazz and his world music interests. On
Live In Greenwich Village (Impulse), Campbell heard Ayler play sax in a frequency
unheard of from other players and he liked the tone and energy and the rhythm
of Don Ayler's trumpet.
Campbell didn't find a world-music leaning in Ayler's music so much as he did
a knowledge that jazz has no beginning and no end. This in effect was the incipient
stage of his belief in a musical circle rather than a line of linearly chronological
development over the ages. Campbell heard the church and marches in Ayler's music
on recordings such as Love Cry.
Campbell never met Albert Ayler, but in the '80s when Don was staying in New York
and he and Campbell were both practicing at Jemeel Moondoc's studio, the two met
and performed together at an East Village club. Campbell's homage to the Aylers,
"Blues for Albert and Don Ayler" on Communion opens with a bossa nova figure through
which Campbell enters with clearly stated slow lines on fluegelhorn before embellishing
it with a Spanish flavoring. Parker's dark, brooding arco solo on bass segues
into a robust drum solo by Nicholson. Campbell and others follow in suit to restate
the main theme.
Campbell heard trumpeter Hannibal Marvin Peterson as a spiritual extension of
Albert and Don Ayler while sitting at Carnegie Hall during the 1972 JVC Jazz Festival,
with Peterson in Roy Haynes' group. Campbell realized he had listened to his perfect
alter ego, a trumpeter with whom he sensed a strong kinship even before their
meeting. Campbell rushed to a café area in Carnegie Hall afterwards where he introduced
himself to Peterson as an aspiring trumpeter. Campbell was only twenty at the
On "One for Hannibal", we hear a more flamboyant side of Roy's trumpet playing
after the quiet and lyrical opening on various hand-held percussive instruments.
We get a look at Campbell both as sensitive to an inner spiritual calm and ready
to burst out at the seams with boundless energy, both qualities he saw in Peterson
as well that night at Carnegie Hall.
Just five years earlier, Campbell had first picked up his father's trumpet and
began to practice around their house in the Bronx. Soon thereafter, Campbell met
trumpeter Lee Morgan at the Bronxwood Inn, an exchange that led to Campbell's
studies in the Jazz Mobile program with Morgan, Kenny Dorham and Joe Newman.
Campbell and Peterson talked in the hallway at Carnegie Hall and exchanged telephone
numbers, which grew into invitations from Peterson for Roy to come over and rehearse
at Peterson's place on West 89th Street in New York. Campbell would trek down
to the Bottom Line club in Greenwich Village to hear Peterson's trio with bassist
Richard Davis and drummer Freddie Waits.
"Hannibal's rhythm section had such a powerful energy that I felt like I was spinning
around in a tornado", recalls Campbell. Listening to Peterson's recordings Live
In Berlin, (MPS), Hannibal, (MPS) and Black Unity (Impulse), with Pharoah Sanders,
motivated Campbell to form his own trio and underscored his love for John Coltrane's
Campbell formed his first trio with bassist William Parker and drummer Zen Matsuura
in November 1982 for a gig at the Shuttle Theater, a former basement club on East
6th Street between Avenue A and Avenue B in New York's infamous 'Alphabet City'.
"They had everything there - poets, punk groups, theater, avant-garde bands,"
recalls Campbell. Campbell had met Parker (who contributes the tunes "Communion"
and "Air Pockets" to this session) through his friend, tenor saxist Clyde Cotton,
in a quartet which included drummer Sinan at the African Poetry Theater in Jamaica,
Queens, in New York. Within weeks, Parker invited Campbell to join saxist Jemeel
Moondoc's Ensemble Muntu, which fulfilled Campbell's desire to play free jazz
and to break away from just playing jazz standards.
Campbell had worked with drummer Reggie Nicholson for years on straightahead gigs,
but Campbell knew of Nicholson's potential to do more than set down a steady rhythm
behind the changes from Nicholson's work with Muhal Richard Abrams, Amina Claudine
Meyers and Henry Threadgill. In fact, it was during Roy's work on a Billy Bang
gig at Chicago's Underground Festival that Campbell first met Nicholson. A few
months later, Reggie moved to New York, where he got work in quartets and big
bands that often included Campbell.
During the mid-'80s, Campbell toured extensively through Europe on the trains.
Drummer Billy Higgins, Campbell's card partner, nicknamed him "Tazz," short for
Tasmanian Devil, to describe Roy's intense stare and fiery trumpet playing with
David Murray. The name stuck and fit his ensemble on his debut as a leader, New
Kingdom, for Delmark in 1992.
Apart from his group Tazz, which shows Campbell's post-bop style and free structures,
Campbell, who turned 42 in September, 1994, co-leads Other Dimensions In Music,
which is more avant-garde in its phrasing as witnessed on their eponymous Silkheart
compact disc recorded in 1989. Formed in 1981 with saxist Daniel Carter during
a gig at Studio 97, formerly located at Houston Street near Varick Street in Greenwich
Village, Other Dimensions In Music sprang from a scene run by percussionist Kahil
Two years earlier, Campbell had written his tune "Vigilance", which gets its first
recorded effort here on Communion. Campbell began the composition from a set of
changes he'd worked through during a rehearsal session at Jemeel Moondoc's studio.
Written originally in C Minor, Campbell eventually modulated it to a G Minor to
give it other colors.
"I use a lot of African and Middle Eastern melodies in it," says Campbell. "I
apply an Arabic scale with half-steps not found in a Western chromatic scale."
"Vigilance" is an upbeat happy tune, whose melody takes on a serious tone before
breaking out into a real swing time measure. Parker's shrill arco lines and cello-like
glissandi descend against Campbell's playful lines. Nicholson comes in on the
cymbals and tom-tom leading into his solo of flurried patterns. Finally all re-enter
to restate the introductory main theme.
Campbell's Pyramid trio toured Europe in 1988 under the auspices of the Knitting
Factory, during which time Nicholson replaced Matsura, who was drumming with Billy
Bang. Things had come full circle personnel-wise and Campbell was orienting his
trio sound more toward world-music with a balance between composition and free
"A lot of times I'll get an idea for a composition from a line or phrase I hear
during a rehearsal session," says Campbell, who along with Parker, writes all
the tunes for Pyramid, ancient to the future à la Art Ensemble of Chicago, Trane
and Pharoah Sanders, whatever the point on the circle.
Contributor to Down Beat, Jazziz, The Villager, Guitar Player, Bass Player, and Coda.