Royce Campbell : Six by Six: A Jazz Guitar Celebration – Jazz Guitar Life CD Review

It’s taken over ten years to reach North American shores but Royce Campbell’s superb Six by Six: A Jazz Guitar Celebration has finally come home, and in a big way, having reached number 5 on the national radio airplay charts through the end of 2004 and into 2005. This is not surprising however given the extraordinary talent that is packed into this exciting CD.

Joining Campbell, an exceptional guitar talent in his own right, are five of the most exhilarating jazz guitarists on the scene today. John Abercrombie, Larry Coryell, Pat Martino, Bucky Pizzarelli, and Dave Stryker lend their musical gifts on two tunes each alongside Campbell in a mix of standards and Campbell originals. As you can imagine, the playing is brilliant and the swing outstanding as each player delivers their own particular voice to each tune.

The CD kicks off with Cambpell and Coryell playing a Campbell original “Happy Blues” and then the classic standard “Love For Sale” which intros with a nice funky groove throughout the verse. The playing by both guitarists is top notch with Coryell’s slightly chorused tone adding contrast to Campbell’s warmth. Coryell gets into some cool intervallic lines during “Happy Blues” and he just flies ala Larry Coryell through one section of “Love For Sale”. Campbell delivers great solos through both tunes.

Miles’s “Milestones” and Coltrane’s “Naima” introduces Pat Martino to the mix and if you are familiar with Martino’s guitar wizardry then you know I don’t have to say any more. And if you are not familiar with Martino’s playing, then check him out without further delay. He is definitely one of the leading figures of jazz guitar improvisation and his playing is totally inspiring. Of course Campbell is able to hold is own alongside Martino and he just burns on “Milestones”.

John Abercrombie joins the fray on two of Campbell’s original tunes; “Angular Blues” and “Day into Night”. The up-tempo “Angular Blues” is just that, angular, with a really cool head that blends into a unique blues form that gets Abercrombie pulling out all the stops and switching mid solo from a warm chorused tone to a stinging overdrive that has some crazy string bending near the end. “Day into Night” finds Abercrombie adding his unique modern voice with some wonderful chord and single note volume swells that add a haunting quality to Campbell’s beautiful ballad. Campbell as always, demonstrates some wistful playing alongside Abercrombie’s slightly distorted pensiveness.

Dave Stryker is up next with a haunting arrangement of Bill Evans’ “Interplay” before it kicks into a swinging minor blues that has both cats revisiting their blues roots in a major way. Sonically these two players seem to come from the same school but manage not to get into each other’s way which is truly a gift in itself. An added bonus on this track is the inclusion of a wonderful acoustic bass solo by Bill Moring, an excellent way to bring the tune back to the head. The joint then gets jumping with “Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise” played in an un-tempo Samba feel with both guitarists showcasing their improv chops at sometimes breakneck speed. The tune ends with Campbell and Stryker soloing simultaneously in a free-for-all of groove and exceptional taste.

And just when you think it couldn’t get any better than that, it’s Bucky Pizzarelli’s turn to dazzle the eardrums, which he does just fine thank you on the timeless standards “Darn That Dream” and “Dancing On The Ceiling”. Campbell’s beautiful chord intro to “Darn That Dream” alone makes the purchase of this CD money very well spent, as he shows us just why he’s able to command the respect of many of the top musicians in this industry. Of course Pizzarelli’s no slouch either as he deftly moves through the tune as only a master of this music can. Cambpell and Pizzarelli end the CD with a swinging two guitar arrangement of “Dancing On The Ceiling” as each guitarist reminds us that jazz is more than just formidable skill, it is first and foremost about making music, and that’s just what these two gentlemen do.

Whether you are a student of jazz guitar, or just a fan, Six by Six: A Jazz Guitar Celebration is just that, a celebration, and should be celebrated by all who admire and respect those who have devoted their lives to creating wonderful music for us all to enjoy. Welcome home Royce.

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