Royce Campbell Plays for Lovers
Originally released by the Japanese King label in 1995 as Waltz for Debby, then Stateside as Royce Campbell With Strings (CMG) and now titled Plays for Lovers, this CD is a collaboration between guitarist Royce Campbell and a 20-piece orchestra conducted by former Stan Kenton and Les Elgart arranger Carroll DeCamp (who also happens to be Campbell's uncle). Now the Indiana native has reissued it on his own label. Whatever the title, it's still the same ol' schlock. Bird with String it ain't. Campbell, who demonstrated a bop pedigree on his previous Moon Cycle release, Six by Six, plays it strictly easy listening here, accompanied by syrupy strings.
The tunes are all classics--"Body and Soul," Bruno Martino's "Estate," Johnny Mandel's "A Time for Love," Gordon Jenkins' "This Is All I Ask," Jimmy Van Heusen's "But Beautiful"--but Campbell's reading of the material is for the most part bland, save for a swinging rendition of Bill Evans' "Waltz for Debby." Pianist Fred Hersch manages to cut through the schmaltz on a couple of solos. And the core band (Campbell, Hersch, bassist Lynn Seaton and drummer Mark Wolfey) turns in a swinging rendition of Cole Porter's "I Concentrate on You." But, oh, those saccharine strings!
RC is, apparently, Campbell's smooth-jazz alter ego. If you like insistent 4/4 backbeats, lots of repetition of simple, singsongy melodic fragments and "nice" guitar solos that strictly showcase the sunny, sugar-coated side of the Wes Montgomery-George Benson legacy, then by all means check out this happy jazz outing. Serious jazz guitar fans, be forewarned: It doesn't get much smoother (or lamer) than this.