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Gypsy Soul

Moon Cycle Records GS3064 [39:21]


1 On the Move [3:57]
2 I’m Gonna Take It Real Easy [3:27]
3 The Rhythm Method [3:29]
4 Slow Down, Low Down [5:42]
5 The Happy Nomad [3:30]
6 Minor Episode [2:27]
7 Gypsy Romance [4:10]
8 Bygones [5:08]
9 Charlie’s Swing [2:52]
10 A.M. Sunrise [4:14]

Royce Campdell (guitars)
Bob Bowen (bass)
Phil Riddle (drums)
No date or place of recording given.

Royce Campbell is one of the legion of accomplished jazz musicians who have attracted relatively little international attention whilst being well known to those with a particular interest in their instrument or to the jazz audience in a particular region.

At present Campbell lives and works in the Virginia / Washington D.C. area. He is guitarist with the prestigious Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. As a young musician he spent two years touring with Marvin Gaye and from 1975 to 1994 he toured extensively with Henry Mancini. At one time or another he has worked with, amongst others, Gerry Mulligan, Mose Allison, Jack McDuff, Ray Brown, Sarah Vaughan, Urnie Green, John Abercrombie and Dave Brubeck. This is something like his fifteenth CD as a leader or co-leader.

Here Campbell turns his considerable talents to a personal view of the gipsy tradition. Though Campbell is, naturally and unavoidably, influenced by the work of Django Reinhardt, it would be wrong to think of him as one of Reinhardt’s heirs, except in the most general sense, and he is certainly not to be numbered amongst the many imitators of the great Django. Campbell is honest and sensible when he says that "this is a recording of original music performed in my own solo style with a gypsy jazz feel … I am exploring my own affinity for this music without making any claim to authenticity. I know that others can do that much better than I ever could".

The results are interesting and entertaining, perhaps rather ‘cooler’ than one might have expected. There’s not a great deal of overt gipsy passion here; the predominant mood is relaxed and relaxing, the gipsy element present more as inflection and mood than as a sustained stylistic feature. Campbell belongs, in the broadest sense, in the modern-mainstream tradition, where his influences appear to include modern masters such as Wes Montgomery, Herb Ellis and Charlie Byrd. His playing on Gipsy Soul remains in that general idiom, for the most part, but with added gipsy ‘flavour’.

‘Slow Down, Low Down’ is an attractively melancholy piece, ‘Bygones’ is inventive and moody; there’s some fine playing on up-tempo pieces such as ‘The Happy Nomad’ and ‘The Rhythm Method’. Campbell’s playing is always melodic and in Bowen and Riddle he has provided himself with an excellent rhythm section, both precise and flexible (a pity they are not given any solo space).

There’s nothing revelatory or especially ground-breaking here. But it is an attractive CD (though with a decidedly short playing time) of intimate, intelligent music-making, some of the subtleties of which only become apparent with repeated hearings. Campbell is a guitarist who deserves to be better known.

Glyn Pursglove

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