Campbell, Roy, performer, composer, arranger, music director, and teacher; b. Los Angeles, Calif., Sept. 29, 1952. He has been a fixture on the underground music scene for over two decades. Playing trumpet, flugelhorn, and flute, he has accrued credits in the David Murray Octet and Billy Bang’s group, as well as recording albums as leader for the Delmark label and for the Swedish label, Silkheart. His family moved to N.Y. when he was a child and he began playing piano at age six and switched to trumpet in high school. As a member of the Jazzmobile Workshop from 1971 to 1973, he pursued advanced trumpet studies with Lee Morgan and Kenny Dorham. An eclectic musician, he has dabbled in an array of musical genres, including R&B, funk, bebop, standards, and has found his home in the avant garde, to which he brings all of these influences in collaborations with Cecil Taylor, Sunny Murray, Henry Threadgill, Jemeel Moondoc, Craig Harris, Woody Shaw, and others. His expertise in orchestration (he’s written for 15- to 20-piece orchestras), past collaborations with leading jazz innovators, and ability to draw inspiration from a variety of sources, set him apart from the trumpet herd. In the late 1980s and early 1990s he split his time between N.Y. and Rotterdam, where he toured with bass saxophonist Klaas Hekman and took over the helm of the Thelonious New World Orch. there. He now leads a N.Y.-based trio with fluctuating personnel, plays in William Parker’s Little Huey Creative Music Orch., and co-leads the group Other Dimensions in Music with Daniel Carter (alto/tenor saxophones, flute, trumpet), William Parker (bass), and Rashid Bakr.
He has forged a solid second outing as leader with La Tierra del Fuego (The Land of Fire) (1994), composing all but one of the seven tunes. Campbell composes on Spanish motifs, at times inflecting haunting or fiery rhythms laden with percussion. The centerpiece of the album is the 17-minute title tune, a three-movement suite that builds on Spanish folk melodies and third world sounds. The leader creates festive colors and pleasing textures that make this session eminently more interesting than those of most young trumpet players recording today. It’s a tough choice between his two Delmark albums and New Kingdom (1992): his debut album for the label could just as easily be a first pick since it was so highly praised by fans and critics when it came out. Delmark is a fitting choice for his innovative music that seems to draw, in part, from AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) influences as well as from the N.Y.C, avant-garde scene. He mostly adheres to melody frameworks as he generates open and muted trumpet/flugelhorn smears, sputters, splashes, splats, and straight-up renderings, leading innovative trio settings with William Parker (bass) and Zen Matsuura (drums). The group expands to a quintet featuring Ricardo Strobert (alto sax, flute) and Bryan Carrott (vibes), and a sextet with guesting tenor saxophonist Zane Massey (on two tracks). In addition to his accomplished trumpet skills, his talents as composer are impressive; he wrote five of the album’s eight tunes. (Parker contributes two originals, Massey one.)
—Nancy Ann Lee