Having followed the musical careers of both Royce Campbell and Chris Whiteman for more than a few years, I was quite excited to find out that they had recently – in 2020 – collaborated on an album which sadly is not an easy thing to do these days.
The Campbell / Whiteman Project is a convivial Jazz Guitar session culminating in eleven tracks that caters more to the post-Bop swing era – ala Herb Ellis/Joe Pass or Carl Kress/George Barnes – than the more probing exploratory duets of Ralph Towner/John Abercrombie or Larry Coryell/Steve Khan. Suffice it to say there is a lot of great sounding Jazz Guitar on this CD – both in tone and performance – as Campbell and Whiteman play exquisitely through eight originals and three standards that bring to mind the blowing sessions of a simpler time. Joining them are Bassist Paul Langosch and Drummer Emre Kartari who offer their solid rhythm section skills alongside their formidable improvisation abilities.
The CD begins with Whiteman’ “Jackrabbit”, a dashing tune that could have easily fit into Benny Goodman’s book! The solo sections are taken at a nice clip as both Campbell and Whiteman “hit” the changes in their inimitable styles bringing to mind such players as Charlie Christian, Kenny Burrell, Chris Flory and Herb Ellis to name but a few. The playing is strong yet relaxed and the two have fun trading fours towards the end of the tune. Langosch gets some nice solo lines in before the group ends the tune. A great start to a splendid set of music.
Campbell’s charming “Along the Way” – with the harmony reminding me of something John Abercrombie would write – is up next and once again features both Guitarists as they each approach their respective solo sections with a great deal of taste and melodic proficiency.
The three remaining Whiteman tunes, “Autumn’s Fall”, “See You Again” and “Barrel Thief Blues”, along with Campbell’s “Blues at an Angle”, “Winterlude” and “Secluded Cove” cover the essentials that make up a great Jazz album. “Autumn’s Fall” and “Winterlude”, ballads both, showcase the intimate and sensitive song-writing craft of both Campbell and Whiteman along with their inherent ability to play beautiful melodies in favour of the tunes.
Campbell’s “Secluded Cove” is a Bossa styled delight to listen to while Whiteman’ “See You Again” melody is akin to an old-time country tune ala early Chet Atkins or George Jones but with a harmonic approach that one would not normally find in tunes of that era. Paul Langosch gets to shine nicely on this one as well.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Jazz album without a decent Blues and thanks to the compositional flair of both Whiteman and Campbell you get two!
Campbell’s “Blues at an Angle” features a very cool angular head – hence the title – that brings to mind the sound of a 50’s TV Detective Show theme song complete with Jazz/Blues infused solos along with some nice Bass soloing from Langosch as well. A very cool tune, as is Whiteman’s “Barrel Thief Blues” where the stop time intro on the drums is accentuated by both Guitarists and Bassist playing the head in unison before the tune settles down to its twelve bar form. Of course both Guitarists make use of their Swing Blues style nicely conjuring up reminiscences of Cal Collins, Herb Ellis and Barney Kessell.
The three standards left are “Ladybird,” “My Ideal” and “In Walked Bud” and as you can by now most likely imagine they handle these tunes with the same passion and familiarity as their original compositions. As Campbell states in the brief liner notes he wrote:
“The result turned out to be everything I could wish for in a collaboration. Not trying to outdo each other but instead united in a common goal of making good music.”
And that sums up this musical outing perfectly! No one is out to prove anything other than they can play great Jazz together and write some memorable tunes. It’s no wonder this album found itself high on the JazzWeek Charts soon after it was released. I have no doubt that this CD could be a favourite with both Musician and non-musician alike and should definitely be in the collection of Jazz Guitar fans and students of the music. The Jazz Guitar tradition is definitely alive and well with Campbell and Whiteman carrying the torch.
Please consider spreading the word about Royce, Chris and Jazz Guitar Life by sharing this review amongst your social media pals and please feel free to leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you 🙂