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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby


Philology Jazz Records


Trio by Starlight

Philology W 357.2 [66:26]



Unforgettable April (Campbell) [6:01]
Lightly, Comes the Dawn [5:05]
The Girl from Rio [7:42]
Soul and Body [7:04]
Bb Jam Blues [5:56]
Autumn Hues [8:34]
Almost Midnight [8:34]
Trio by Starlight [7:51]
Quiescent Nights [6:36]
Who’s Got Rhythm [6:00]
Royce Campbell (guitar)
Hod O’Brien (piano)
Tom Baldwin (bass)
recorded 16 February, 2006, Small World Audio, Afton, Virginia, USA

A gorgeous album firmly in the bop tradition.

The admirable Paolo Piangiarelli established his Philology label in 1987, "dedicating it", in his words, to his "heroes Phil Woods, Chet Baker and Lee Konitz". Since 1987 it has issued many superb albums, by Piangiarelli’s nominated heroes and by many others. A glance through the Philology catalogue reveals names such as the superlative Italian pianist Franco D’Andrea, and his compatriot, the fine tenor sax player Gianni Basso, and largely neglected talents such as American (but Italian-based) pianist Mike Melillo or clarinettist Tony Scott.

It is good to see guitarist Royce Campbell, whose work I have enjoyed on more than one previous album, getting some exposure on Philology, one of the best of Jazz’s independent labels. Good as his work has been on some of the albums I have previously heard, such as Gypsy Soul, this is on a different level and establishes Campbell’s credentials once and for all.

He does , I am sure, benefit from the presence of Hod O’Brien on piano. O’Brien has been recording since at least 1957, when (aged 21) he appeared on the Prestige album, Three Trumpets, in a rhythm section with Addison Farmer and Ed Thigpen in support of Art Farmer, Donald Byrd and Idrees Suleiman. Since then he has recorded in the company of musicians such as Chet Baker, Jimmy Raney, Allen Eager, Warne Marsh and many others. He has also worked with luminaries such as Oscar Pettiford, Red Rodney, Zoot Sims, Charlie Rouse and Barry Harris. From this wealth of experience he brings an unexaggerated but propulsive swing, a sophisticated harmonic sense and an unpedantic precision of bop-inspired phrasing that is a joy for any lover of bop piano idioms.

The two frontline soloists-partners are well supported by Tom Baldwin’s work on bass – Baldwin can draw on experience with masters such as James Moody and Harold Mabern and, both as a firm harmonic and rhythmic source of strength and an occasional soloist, makes a valuable contribution to an excellent album.

All the tunes are credited to Campbell. In fact all of them, in the best bop tradition, are based on the chord sequences of well-known standards. For any listener who might have any difficulty in recognising the originals, Campbell’s titles offer some less than impenetrable clues – ‘Almost Midnight’ borrows from a Monkish original; ‘The Girl from Rio’ has a sister from Ipanema, etc.

Campbell plays, throughout, with great fluency and imagination; O’Brien prompts with wit and judgement and solos in a fashion that distils a great tradition of jazz piano; Baldwin displays big ears and firm technique.

For anyone who loves the bop tradition, this is a joy and this is very warmly recommended.

Glyn Pursglove


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