Thursday, March 13, 2008

Roy Campbell - Akhnaten Suite (AUM Fidelity, 2008) *****

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!

I am a fan of Campbell, so my review may be a little too subjective.

Listen and download from eMusic.

Read more on Akhnaten on Wikipedia, to which I added Campbell's new album.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Where's the download link?