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Roy Campbell

Roy Campbell
Roy Campbell (photo: Alan Nahigian)

Pyramid Trio, one of several groups fronted by New York trumpeter Roy Campbell, relies heavily on quicksilver intuition to bring its leader’s world-music-flavored tunes to life, and that sort of fluid interaction literally drips from the speakers when the group’s new Delmark album Ethnic Stew & Brew is on the box. Incredibly, while bassist William Parker has been a regular compatriot of the hornman for more than two decades, drummer Hamid Drake had never played Campbell’s music until they hit the studio for the new recording. “I’ve played with William for a long time,” says Campbell. “But I naturally assimilate to musicians I play with. It’s not the length of time; it’s the spirit of the person and the spirit of the music that brings things together.

“I view music in a very spiritual sense and a lot of times it’s not about playing together, but it’s about when people can vibe together,” explains Campbell, 48. “It’s like the flow of water.” The new album, then, is a veritable gusher. Bright, highly lyrical melodies as windswept as the plains of Castilla and as sparkling as blue of the Caribbean are girded by a beautifully rigorous, muscular rhythmic heft. Campbell’s concept of wedding postbop tunes with carefully deployed ethnic spices has been explored on two previous Pyramid Trio albums, on Silkheart and No More, but the combination has never sounded more potent or effective than it does on Ethnic Stew & Brew. The trumpeter is quick to give much of the credit to Drake, a dazzling rhythmical omnivore whose aural diet includes as much reggae and African music as it does jazz; they first played together, along with Parker, in Die Like a Dog and the Chicago Tentet, groups led by German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann. “I see Hamid and William the way Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison fit with Trane, in terms of rapport and musicality.” Whether laying down imperturbable grooves or splintering them into countless new directions, this rhythmic duo does, indeed, sound like a force of nature.

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