Trumpeter Roy Campbell has been a linchpin of New York's downtown jazz scene for around 20 years, earning the admiration of younger brass stars like Dave Douglas, but he's only recently begun to transcend the status of hometown hero. This wider recognition is overdue. Though he projects some of the bugler-gone-bad raggedness of Lester Bowie (minus the escaping-air stage whispers), the Bronx-born Campbell is a brash New Yorker at the core, with a plump, rich tone that's associated more with hard bop than the avant-garde. (He's heard his free-school Don Cherry, but as a young man studied with soulful Lee Morgan.) His lines can carry the raw immediacy of a blues moan or field holler, but with the right rhythm section he makes those hollers dance. Such a team joins him this week: bass paragon William Parker and drummer Hamid Drake, little heard in his hometown nowadays. Campbell and Parker have played together in umpteen bands since the 1970s, and understand each other implicitly, rhythmically and harmonically. The bassist and drummer combine to form one of the most formidable free-jazz rhythm sections around, period. Parker's low rumble and the open G string he wails on like a bass drum provide a steady grounding, while Drake hustles the triangle along, drawing on his mental cookbook of rhythm patterns (arcane reggae beats included). The three have played together in Peter Brotzmann's Chicago Tentet, but the best proof of their chemistry is Pyramid Trio's justly admired 1999 Ethnic Stew and Brew (Delmark), where the parts fit together like a $50 jigsaw puzzle, no pieces left over. Going for broke on trumpet is tough on the lips, and sometimes Campbell can fade after intermission. But a single set on a split bill with Tuesday Bottle regulars the Vandermark 5 sounds a like a perfect setup. Tuesday, February 18, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Todd Winters.