Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

In Memoriam – Dave Campbell

Dave Campbell, who pushed the limits of what a drummer could do, died Wednesday in New York after emergency surgery following a battle with a long illness. He was 50. One of the best-loved and most strikingly individualistic players in the New York music scene, Campbell’s outgoing, generous presence as a musician and bandmate is irreplaceable.

Like the other great drummers of his generation, he was involved in many projects, from rock to jazz. A disciple of Elvin Jones, Campbell propelled psychedelic rock band Love Camp 7’s labyrinthine songs with equal parts subtlety and exuberance, contributing harmony and occasional lead vocals as well. While Campbell was instrumental in shaping Love Camp 7’s knottily cerebral creations into more accessible, straight-ahead rock, he took Erica Smith and the 99 Cent Dreams in the opposite direction, from Americana-tinged jangle-rock to jazz complexity. He was also the drummer in upbeat, high-energy New York rockers the K’s.

Originally from Minnesota, Campbell attended the University of Chicago and came to New York in the 1980s, where he joined Love Camp 7 as a replacement and then remained in the band over twenty years, touring Europe and recording several albums. He also handled drum and harmony vocal duties on Erica Smith’s two most recent studio albums, Friend or Foe and Snowblind. He leaves behind a considerable amount of unreleased studio work with both bands.

As a player, Campbell had an encyclopedic knowledge of rhythms and grooves and a special love for Brazilian music. His occasional solos often took the shape of a narrative, imbued with wry humor and unexpected colors. A great raconteur, Campbell’s stream-of-consciousness, machine-gun wit was informed by a curiosity that knew no bounds, combined with an ironclad logic that never failed to find the incongruity in a situation. He reveled in small, clever displays of defiance against authority, yet approached his playing and singing with a perfectionist rigor.

He is survived by his family and the love of his life, the artist and photographer Annie Sommers.

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May 20, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, New York City, obituary, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

CD Review: Peppe Merolla – Stick with Me

Jazz falls into a lot of categories: boudoir jazz, solace-after-a-rough-day jazz, late night sleepy jazz, drunk jazz, fake jazz. Drummer Peppe Merolla’s debut as a bandleader, Stick with Me, is party jazz. It’s the kind of album you can actually put on repeat and not get sick of and it’s our favorite so far this year. Tunes leap from the grooves (ok, the, um, bitmap) of this one with a joyous exuberance that occasionally mellows out into warmly expansive reflection, contentment with a job well done. Merolla is a no-nonsense player with considerable wit, and the tone he sets is contagious. They’re off with a genial rumble from the toms and a characteristically playful yet ethereal Steve Turre shell motif into a modified latin groove (a vibe they’ll bring back again and again here) with casually blazing solos from Jim Rotondi’s trumpet and Turre’s trombone, tenor player John Farnsworth offhandedly quoting Trane, Mike LeDonne (on piano here) introducing some otherworldly tones before joining in the bounce. The fun continues on Ferris Wheel (a tongue-in-cheek title for sure – Bumper Cars would be more like it) with an insistent New Orleans horn riff, a buoyant Farnsworth solo and speeds up as Lee Smith walks the bass and the trombone plays deadpan staccato. A second consecutive Farnsworth tune, Junior, swings genially with a cinematic 70s New York flair, right down to LeDonne’s judiciously summery Rhodes piano. Yet another Farnsworth track builds from pensive, Coltrane-style majesty to irrepressible swing. And the everybody’s-invited after-hours vibe of their version of Willie Nelson’s  Crazy has the melody making the rounds of the band with a joyous directness and simplicity before more contemplative turns from everybody.

There’s also the deliriously circling latin jazz of Mozzin’ (yet another tasty Farnsworth tune), the snaky Marbella with its characteristically boisterous, tuneful Turre trombone, the vividly anthemic Princess of the Mountain and the spiritedly bluesy, high-energy Bud Powell homage One for Bud, a counterintuitive showcase for horns rather than the piano. The small handful of solos Merolla takes here actually sound composed, with a definite trajectory and a punch line. Put this on when the party’s been going for a few hours and soon even your “I hate music that doesn’t have singing” crowd will be humming along. It may be only February, but this is one is likely to end up on a lot of best-of lists this year. And it’s also reason to look forward to what Farnsworth may have up his sleeve next time out.

Merolla has an interesting backstory. A drummer from the age of five, he toured with his parents, the actors Gino Morelli and Tina Barone. After opening for Sinatra at a New York City concert, Sinatra was so impressed that he re-christened the teenage Merolla as “Little Joe” and arranged a three-album record deal for him.

February 27, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Concert Review: Love Camp 7 at Parkside Lounge, NYC 6/2/07

The house was full by the time the band went on. There were a couple of tables full of yuppie puppies from Westchester or Connecticut, loud and oblivious as if they were on lunch break at middle school (even if that was ten years ago for them). It took Love Camp 7 about five minutes to clear them out of the room, opening up some space for the cool kids to sit. Love Camp 7 played interludes all night, an endless series of hooks, riffs and intricate guitar figures that rushed by, a whirlwind of beautiful, jangling, twanging, wailing melody. Their songs don’t follow any predictable pattern. Each is a winding back street through a casbah of the mind where every turn could be a dead end but always leads somewhere unexpected. Yet the songs are anything but random. Love Camp’s not-so-secret weapon, in full force tonight, is drummer Dave Campbell, one of the two or three finest in all of rock. He led his bandmates, redoubtable bassist Bruce Hathaway and frontman/guitarist Dann Baker (who also plays with Campbell in Erica Smith’s band the 99 Cent Dreams) through one tricky change after another, through minefields of weird time signatures and abrupt endings. In the end, everybody emerged exhausted but unscathed.

They opened with a couple of jangly numbers, the second being the tongue-in-cheek The Angry Driver with its wickedly catchy, recurrent chorus. They then followed with a few cuts from their forthcoming Beatles album. Each of these songs takes its title from a Beatles record. Like the Rutles or XTC on their Dukes of Stratosphear albums, Love Camp 7 expertly blends in licks and melodies that are either stolen directly from the Fab Four, or bear a very close resemblance. The result works as both homage and satire. While the song cycle begins with Meet the Beatles – which they played tonight, the closest thing to an actual period piece among the songs – the compositions bear a much closer resemblance to the most intricate, psychedelic stuff from the White Album or Abbey Road than any of the Beatles’ early hits.

Revolver began with the chorus, eventually broke down into an interlude and then reverted back. Magical Mystery Tour was set to an odd time signature, with a doublespeed break after the chorus and then a passage right out of I Am the Walrus. The Beatles’ Second Album was the closest thing to a narrative, a wry, invented reminiscence of the era when the record came out.

The rest of the set blended gorgeous, jangling psychedelia with strange, sometimes atonal stop-and-start numbers. Second guitarist Steve Antonakos used one of them to sneak in some completely over the top, Eddie Van Halen-style tapping which was very funny. They encored with the only song from their new, career-best album Sometimes Always Never that they played tonight, Naming Names. Campbell and Baker traded off vocals on this acerbic namecheck of some of the unexpected culprits who narced on their colleagues during the McCarthy hearings. From just this set, it seems as if Love Camp 7 has at least two killer albums worth of material ready for release: a very auspicious event.

June 5, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments