Roy Campbell & Massamalgam | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Roy Campbell & Massamalgam


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Trumpeter Roy Campbell brings old-fashioned virtues to the most freewheeling new music: though he's frequently played in groups led by visionary bassist William Parker, his crisp technique would fit anywhere on the century-old jazz continuum. Campbell's horn sings with a brash melodicism inherited from Louis Armstrong, and he scrambles the screech register with the abandon of a young Dizzy Gillespie; his lyricism has the dark, clean edge associated with such 60s giants as Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard, and he revives the burbling, gurgling effervescence of Lester Bowie's most raucous rafter rattling. But he doesn't simply indulge in virtuosity for its own sake, and even subverts it when that suits his needs. His handful of recordings as a leader reflect a rangy interest in musical traditions from other parts of the world, from Spain to North Africa to the Indian subcontinent--traditions he obviously respects, even as he obliterates the boundaries that separate them. (Campbell's latest disc, the Delmark release Ethnic Stew and Brew, landed on a surprising number of top-ten lists for 2001.) I haven't heard Massamalgam--a sporadic group anchored by composer, musician, and instrument inventor Mark Deutsch--but from what I can tell, the band's show may include a spoken-word element. For this concert Massamalgam consists of Deutsch, Campbell, and percussionist Jason Finkelman; Deutsch will play his bass-and-sitar hybrid, the Bazantar, a five-string acoustic bass augmented with twenty-nine sympathetic strings and four drone strings. He uses a simplified tuning for the bass strings on this monster, the better to pursue his interest in Indian-inspired microtonalities; low frequencies such as those produced by a bass contain especially rich series of overtones, and the Bazantar's welter of sympathetic strings must run riot with them. In print the instrument sounds a little like a fugitive from band practice on the Island of Doctor Moreau, but reportedly it's capable of orchestral breadth and power, and I expect the contrast between the Bazantar's rococo textures and Campbell's cutting clarity to generate some real thrills. Thursday, May 2, 8 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Todd Winters.

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