Reviews – ROY CAMPBELL Ensemble ..Akhenaten Suite...(AUM045)

POINT OF DEPARTURE
".. a thoroughly refreshing album on several counts, not the least of them being that, unlike the majority of pieces that claim the name, the trumpeter actually employs conventions of the suite form, using dance rhythms and plainly related thematic materials as building blocks. .. Whether Campbell uses a brisk 6/8 or a more color-driven approach to pulse, where he blends in recorder and arghul, his melodies are streamlined, but not at the expense of pungent phrases that get reworked over the course of the album, providing the baseline of continuity a suite needs for full impact. They also provide the type of platform for Campbell’s strengths as a soloist. Even though critics strain to triangulate his style with those of Bobby Bradford, Freddie Hubbard and others, Campbell has an attribution-resistant old-school sound and approach to line and development. He can slalom through changes cleanly delineated by bassist Hillard Greene and drummer Zen Matsuura, and then plow through the bar lines with well-placed smears and squeals. Above all, Campbell has the maturity to not just pick his spots, but fully exploit them, whether it entails mulling over a phrase or leading the charge with a clarion call. If there’s such a thing as an unassuming tour de force, Akhenaten Suite is one." – Bill Shoemaker

ALL ABOUT JAZZ #1
"The enthusiastic crowd coaxes our heroes forward on each track, even though the suite needs no cheering section. .. As with his previous work, [Campbell] maintains a heavy amount of swing in his melodies. .. a thoroughly enjoyable ride." –Mark Corroto

ALL ABOUT JAZZ #2
" .. a swinging world music lilt allied to taut freebop and incisive outside elements. .. Melodic and rhythmic felicities abound bracketing compelling solo excursions, from Campbell’s fiery trumpet on the darkly funky “Pharaoh’s Revenge Part 1,” to Carrott’s stirring exhibition on the loping “Pharaoh’s Revenge Part 2." –John Sharpe

DOWNTOWN MUSIC GALLERY
“ .. always swinging infectiously .. melodic and charming .. This was one of the most enchanting sets of this fest.” – BLG

FREE JAZZ blog
“5 Stars!”
Roy Campbell has always been one of my favorite musicians, because of the unbelievable emotional strength of his trumpet playing and his musical vision. For this album, recorded live at the Vision Festival in 2007, he teams up with some of his former band-mates and musical friends : Billy Bang on violin, Bryan Carrott on vibraharp, Hilliard Greene on bass and Zen Matsuura on drums. Truth be told, I am not a fan of the violin (in a jazz context) nor of the vibraphone (in general), with some exceptions of course. Luckily, this is one of those exceptions. Campbell has always had an interest in ancient Egypt, and this is his second Nile Suite if you want, the first one is the one with Dennis Gonzalez (highly recommended). This album is very much in the same vein, with long slow pieces, full of middle-eastern scales and spiritual yearning. The pieces all are relatively traditional in their format, with a strong rhythmic basis and a recognisable theme. The rhythms are jazzy, middle-eastern and even a little Latin at times. The themes are long, broad, dramatic, cinematic, impressive and imposing, nicely evoking the power and the spiritual vision of the great pharaoh Akhnaten, who - in order to break the power of the ruling classes of priests - claimed that there was only one god. A major epidemic outbreak swept through the region, killing a large part of the population. His opponents claimed that this was caused by the wrath of the gods. His son Tutankhamun succeeded him on the throne at the age of nine. After his reign, his religious beliefs were overruled by the class of priests, and both father and son were even deleted from all records in the pharaoh' lineage. So - drama enough to inspire Campbell's fantastic suite, in which his trumpet-playing deservedly plays a major role, with Bang and Carrott nicely contributing and offering the necessary depth and contrast. Campbell's soloing is melodic but above all wailing and crying, varying between intimacy and powerplay, and emotionally strong in a way that few trumpeters can equal. Green and Matsuura's contributions are excellent and very functional in helping to create the overall coherent atmosphere. Grand and majestic music!

JAZZ REVIEW (UK)
“.. a joyous, expansive collective of compositions that embraces stretching ambitions within a language that isn’t going to frighten any horses. Campbell took his inspiration from Egypt and, if the inevitable Sun Ra comparisons come thick, fast and often, then his music sounds unencumbered. .. Great band too: veteran bassist Hilliard Greene is an unsung hero, and the Bang-Carrott vibraphone and violin frontline encourages a lightness of touch that’s wholly refreshing. The opening section, “Akhenaten”, is underpinned by a skipping groove and Campbell’s long solo is as elegant and geometrically shapely as a pyramid, with radiant excursions up to the high register achieved with ample control. The opening of “Pharaoh’s Revenge” brings Bang to the fore, as Campbell opens his aperture to capture a unique soundscape that blends violin with bowed bass and recorder. And the music flows with the inevitability of the Nile into the sunny finale as another top-notch Campbell solo leaves the audience with a feel-good factor of 10." – Philip Clark

JAZZ TIMES
“.. veteran musical explorer Roy Campbell successfully channels the almost alien antiquity of his subject. But controversies sparked by the pharaoh reverberate to this day, from church/state debates to the very meaning of artistic expression, and Campbell’s bristling suite also carries within it the charged emotions and stormy clashes that have kept Akhenaten’s story relevant.” – Forrest Dylan Bryant

JAZZWISE (UK)
“Campbell’s is a disciplined band serving composition and improvisation with great maturity and Akhenaten Suite is a finely written and performed work from an artist in his prime.” – Kevin Le Gendre

THE WIRE
“Roy Campbell’s credentials as a fluid, full-toned improvising trumpeter in the free jazz tradition are well established. What the Akhenaten Suite also makes clear is what a good composer and arranger for jazz ensemble he is.” – Brian Marley

!EARSHOT (Canadian non-commercial radio charts)
“#1 Jazz”


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