Archive for January, 2014

critic’s pick 315: david crosby, ‘croz’

crozBy the end of Croz, David Crosby’s first studio solo album in over two decades, the folk-rock forefather sounds quietly but assuredly upbeat.

“All the goodness that lies within is just around the bend,” he sings in the Croz-closing Find a Heart over summery saxophone lines and a spacious, jazz-like groove. If the tune reads like the concluding chapter of a self-help manual, so be it. At 72, Crosby has survived the self-destruction of several rock ‘n’ roll lifetimes to earn a fleeting spot in the sun.

But it is very fleeting and Croz is less an affirmation and more of a meditation that often travels along very dark corridors. Its songs seek identity – not for Crosby necessarily, but for those he encounters as he continues to search out a sense of peace that, over the years, has become less socially driven and more personal.

“Who wants to see an abandoned soul?” asks Crosby in the chorus of What’s Broken as he views a rogues gallery of personas that shift from the lonely to the purely desperate. Those sentiments reach a zenith on If She Called, where he views a pack of prostitutes with largely paternal concern. The way these songs lead to the solace of Find a Heart makes Croz double as an album of discovery.

Croz is also a gorgeous listen. Working again with son James Raymond, the album wraps the wary, conversational tone of Crosby’s singing with light, keyboard dominate arrangements that sound less like his fabled work with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash and more like a pensive version of Steely Dan.

A few guests offer fittingly tasteful colors to this mix, like the patient, winding guitar solo that Mark Knopfler weaves through What’s Broken and Wynton Marsalis’ blue-hued trumpet line during Holding On To Nothing that underscores the tune’s uneasy calm as well as the conflicted ghosts that inhabit it (“Even words from a friend can bring back the pain”).

But Crosby’s prime co-hort remains Raymond, who helps construct Croz not as the confession of a folkie elder but as the work of a vital, worldly and very adult songsmith happily reaching out of his comfort zone. Alternately contemplative and uneasy (which inadvertently gives this music a wintry appeal), Croz is a quietly bracing work that balances familiarity and invention.

pete seeger, 1919-2014

pete seeger

pete seeger.

The polite but tired view of folk music is one of intimacy – a style confined to the comfort of coffeehouses and the company of friends. Pete Seeger lit a fuse to that notion. His coffeehouse was a global stage and his friends were successive generations of artists and activists that saw folk not only as a means of personal expression but as a pen with which to address an often intolerant nationIn a career that spanned seven decades, Seeger upheld folk as a social art form. His music was designed to serve and be shared.

To understand the importance of a performer like Seeger, who died yesterday at the age of 94, one needs to revisit the dark corridors of American history where his music took shape. McCarthyism. Segregation. War. All manner of labor, social and environmental unrest. He may have become a commercial musical force with The Weavers by making a hit out of Leadbelly’s Goodnight Irene. But it was what Seeger was saying in a string of work and protest songs that stirred the pot of social consciousness. It made him famous. Then it got him blacklisted.

But Seeger’s importance didn’t begin there. As a protégé of folk archivist Alan Lomax, folk was his key to America, especially rural areas where folk was a part of daily work life. These were roads Seeger never stopped walking. It led him to benefit concerts for migrant workers in the early 1940s to Occupy Wall Street 70 years later.

What continued to astound, though, was the reach of influence Seeger had upon other artists. The popularity of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash would have likely varied considerably without Seeger’s support in the 1960s, as would the more electric Americana of The Byrds and the progressive country legions they inspired.

More recently, the politically driven music of Bruce Springsteen, the indie activist records of Ani DiFranco and the globally/socially minded songs of Bruce Cockburn would have been unimaginable without Seeger.

For me, the recordings that exemplified the quiet but steadfast power of Seeger’s tireless folk vision were the concert albums he released with Arlo Guthrie over the years, particularly 1975’s Together in Concert. Among that record’s almost childlike highlights was Get Up and Go, a humorous reverie on aging from a Seeger that still had four decades of life and work ahead of him.

“In spite of it all, I’m able to grin,” Seeger sang with no small level of whimsy. “And think of the places my get-up has been.”

grammy post mortem 2014

daft punk

night of the ‘bots: daft punk rules at the grammys.

The top awards went to the French born “robots” of Daft Punk who, in a refreshingly change for an awards show, didn’t utter a word of acceptance all night long. But, as has been the case in most Grammy telecasts in recent years, all points of interest went to the performances.

While ‘who won what’ was largely beside the point, The Musical Box decided to distribute 10 mock awards of our own for our annual Grammy post mortem

+ Best power couple: Beyonce and Jay-Z. Together, they could probably buy and sell the entire pop universe. Onstage, during the show-opening Drunk in Love, they were just your everyday husband and wife in heat. Jay-Z also got bonus points for the best acceptance speech later in the evening, which he directed to daughter Blue Ivy: “Look, daddy’s got a gold sippy cup for you.”

+ Best dexterity: Pink, for bends, twirls and contortions while being suspended over the Grammy audience. When the singer was earthbound again to sing Just Give Me a Reason, she looked like she could snap duet partner Nate Ruess in two like a twig.

+ Best nostalgia moment: Ringo Starr. The much ballyhooed duet with fellow Beatle Paul McCartney was good fun. But Ringo’s delivery of his 1973 hit Photograph was full of such simple, effective pageantry that one almost forgot how devastatingly sad the song was.

+ Best party moment: Daft Punk with Stevie Wonder, Pharrell Williamsand Nile Rodgers. The Daft Punk dance hit Get Lucky took Record of the Year honors, but last night’s live version threw ageless pop-soul legend Wonder into the mix. Everybody in the all-star audience seemed to get their groove on.

+ Best utility man: Lang Lang. The celebrated pianist turned rock star and cranked up the histronics to perform One with Metallica and then returned to his classical security base with a brief but solemn tribute to the late Van Cliburn.

+ Best sisterhood: Carole King and Sara Bareilles. Representatives of two pop generations, each possessed with boundless vitality, squared off with nothing but two pianos and obvious mutual admiration to back them up.

+ Best affirmation: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis with Trombone Shorty, Mary Lambert, Queen Latifah and Madonna. The occasion stole the show in a faith-driven version of One Love that served as a live backdrop for the simultaneous marriage of over 30 mixed and same sex couples.

+ Best surprise: Kasey Musgraves. Continuing a tradition of upsets in the Best Country Album category, Musgraves’ smart, open and uncompromising Same Trailer Different Park beat out cookie-cutter top sellers by Tim McGraw, Jason Aldean and Blake Shelton.

+ Best simplicity: John Legend. As with the King/Bariellies duet, pop-soul star Legend performed All of Me by accompanying himself on piano. The simple beauty was underscored when Taylor Swift followed by turning the piano-fueled All Too Well into a bombastic, self-involved mess.

+ Best parting shot: Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, Lindesy Buckingham and Dave Grohl. Daft Punk won top honors for Album of the Year with a surprisingly touching acceptance speech by ‘70s popster Paul Williams. But Buckingham and NIN chieftain Trent Reznor made sure everyone went home with their ears ringing.

in performance: robert earl keen

robert earl keen 2

robert earl keen. photo by darren carroll.

Robert Earl Keen is the kind of songwriter who knows a few things about providing a wintry cast to Texas-style Americana music. Some of his best writing, in fact, downplays the Lone Star dance hall drive that has come to define his popularity as a live act in favor of subtle, chilled intimacy.

One would think a return Lexington concert by the famed Texas songsmith last night at the Lyric Theatre in the midst of a particularly nasty winter stretch – one, in fact, that caused Keen to joke that he had “traded his tour bus in for a bobsled” – would be the ideal occasion to utilize such icy intimacy.

No chance. Last night, Keen brushed aside, for the most part, suggestions of the warm and fuzzy in favor of full fledge Texas bonfire. Utilizing a four-member touring band that has been his back-up for over two decades (the concert, contrary to initial advertisements, was not a solo show), Keen went heavy on the Lone Star roadhouse reveries that reflected the more electric side of his artistic persona (Five Pound Bass, Amarillo Highway and the set closing renegade anthem The Road Goes on Forever) as well the more askew cantina/honky tonk reflections that highlighted the narrative mischief in his writing (I Gotta Go, Merry Christmas from the Family and the especially twisted, waltz-infused romp A Border Tragedy).

It was all as fun as could be with Keen sounding effortlessly involved with songs he has been singing for decades while pedal steel/lap steel/dobro player Marty Muse and guitarist Rich Brotherton offered regal bordertown orchestration through their soloing and sparring.

The sold out crowd ate it all up too, especially when old favorites like Corpus Christi Bay and I’m Comin’ Home were amped up to meet the ceremonial spirit that dominated the 90 minute performance.

But the few times Keen stepped out of party mode and into that neglected, darker intimacy, an entire other dimension of his music and performance profile emergence. Leading the pack was a discreetly solemn reading of Bears by Steven Fromholz, the champion Texas songwriter who died in a hunting accident earlier this week. Another was a sweetly nostalgic revisit to The Front Porch Song and an accompanying story that underscored Keen’s longstanding friendship with fellow Texas scribe Lyle Lovett, who co-penned the song.

The highlight, though, was a finale cover of The Old Home Place, a preview from an upcoming Keen album of bluegrass standards. The singer and his band played it at the front of the stage without amplification, forcing the honky tonk attitude (and behavior) of the crowd into a state of attentive concert hall quiet.                                   

in performance: town mountain

Town Mountain 2014 Standing photo by Amy Daniels

town mountain: phil barker, robert greer, bobby britt, rob parks and jesse langlais. photo by amy daniels.

The ingenuity of a bluegrass lot like Blue Mountain revealed itself in two distinct ways early into a sold out, two set show last night at Natasha’s.

The first came three songs into the set with the title tune to the band’s 2012 album Leave the Bottle. It began with the air of a waltz, which was one of several traditional preferences this Asheville, North Carolina quintet favored. It was a discreet turn, too, with banjoist Jesse Langlais and mandolinist Phil Barker (Town Mountain’s principal songwriters) setting down an assured grassy bluegrass stride accented by rich leads from Morehead/Hilda fiddler Jesse Wells (sitting in for band regular Bobby Britt). Then, during the chorus, the song detoured into rugged swing, giving guitarist/vocalist Robert Greer an extra palette of colors to work with.

The other attribute, which unfolded more gradually throughout the performance, dealt with Town Mountain’s ability to a maintain a strong traditional focus that possessed enough momentum and grit to match the spirit of a very chatty crowd that last night gave Natasha’s the air of an upscale honky tonk.

Sure, the light, soulful timbre of Greer’s singing regularly approximated bluegrass great Jimmy Martin while Barker’s lone turn at lead vocals on Lawdog revealed a potent mountain tenor. But the George Jones-inspired drive of Up the Ladder, the swing-savvy undercurrent to Whiskey With Tears and the potent instrumental flow of Tarheel Boys all recalled the feisty antique spirit of such modern string bands as Old Crow Medicine Show.

The band’s strong traditionalist profile also extended to the few cover tunes that were peppered in with its primarily original repertoire. Specifically, Town Mountain’s takes on Son Volt’s Windfall and Bruce Springsteen’s I’m on Fire were, despite the songs’ contemporary origins, set to old school country frameworks that were, respectively, comforting and restless.

The evening’s only hiccup was an initially tentative sound mix that didn’t place enough fire under the band for it to be fully heard, especially toward the back of the venue, above the crowd noise. But that was a mountain Town Mountain quickly overcame. All you needed was a little extra electric juice under this masterful band to make its refreshingly traditional string sounds ignite.

a touch of marfa in the night

robert earl keen

robert earl keen.

Among the entries making up the sterling Lone Star recording catalogue of Robert Earl Keen sits a concert recording called Marfa After Dark. It’s not one of the better known albums issued by the veteran songsmith over the past three decades, but it’s a fitting one to examine as Keen makes his way back to Lexington this weekend.

The record chronicles a live Saturday night during the dead of winter in Marfa, one of the few locales in Texas that knows what it’s like to feel a seasonal chill.

“Marfa is out in the Trans-Pecos area, which is way out West near El Paso,” Keen said. “It’s somewhat mountainous and does get really, really cold in the wintertime. It doesn’t stay cold cause we’re not that far north, but it probably gets as cold there as any place in Texas. It’s up above 5,000 feet, and there is no cloud cover out there. It gets down to zero occasionally.”

The majority of Keen’s studio works – from his 1984 debut No Kinda Dancer to the 1994 breakthrough Gringo Honeymoon to his most recent record, 2011’s Ready for Confetti –color folk and dance hall charm with storylines that are alternately whimsical, wistful and sobering. But Marfa After Dark – initially issued by Keen as a free download and now as indie item through his website – puts a curious spin on his songs that differ even from a conventional live record. The juxtaposition of Marfa’s remoteness with the wintry Saturday setting the performance unfolds in provides the album – which includes the country surrealist saga The Great Hank, the bittersweet on-your-own reflection Lonely Feeling and even the amusing between-song travelogue The Annux – with a campfire-like feel.

“It was made in the third week of January in whatever year that was (2008),” Keen said. “It was in January and it was really cold.”

Now we have Keen back in Kentucky on the fourth Saturday night of 2014. While the Lyric Theatre may be a far cry from the Marfa Ballroom, a little of the recording’s wintry charm will almost unavoidably be present.

“I do think that element plays into the show. People are all hovered around the old campfire in a way. You gain their attention a little bit quicker, I believe, with this kind of indoor setting. Consequently, it allows me to relax a little bit. I don’t feel like I have to be competing with 10 other things that are happening right outside the window. I do tend to relax in the wintertime. I like these shows. They always have this certain intimate feel that you don’t get in the summertime.”

While Lexington’s wintry Saturday setting coincidentally recalls the campfire mood of Marfa After Dark, the recording Keen is currently at work on brings the celebrated Texas songwriter stylistically closer to Kentucky. Specifically, Keen is at work on a bluegrass album.

“There is a joke I tell onstage that starts out, ‘Although Texans know everything about everything, they don’t know squat about bluegrass.’ But I picked it up somehow when I was in college and listened to all those Flatt & Scruggs and Stanley Brothers records and found a group of like minded people that loved it.

“You know what the appeal is? It’s this great communal kind of thing. If I played jazz, I think there would be a similar feel when you get together with people that can play. In bluegrass, you know almost everybody that plays and sings has a part. If they’re playing a dobro, they’re playing different dobro licks. If they play the mandolin, the repertoire might take on those really great high lonesome songs of Bill Monroe. There is always a place in bluegrass for somebody who just enjoys music.”

Robert Earl Keen performs at 7:30 p.m., Jan. 25 at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, 300 East Third. Tickets are $34.50. Call (859) 280-2218 or go to www.lexingtonlyric.com.

town mountaineering

Town Mountain 1

town mountain: bobby britt, phil barker, robert greer, rob parks and jesse langlais. photo by amy daniels.

When a bluegrass band calls itself Town Mountain, you can’t help but wonder where the point of origin exists within its music.

Is it truly town oriented, the product of even a modestly metropolitan upbringing, or does it hail from the mountainous regions that define string band tradition and high lonesome singing?

True to the name of this celebrated quintet, which has become a regular performance visitor to Lexington over the past year, both instances come into play. Town Mountain hails from the very arts-centric North Carolina city of Asheville, which possesses a bluegrass community devout enough to sustain the band as it forms a national fanbase. But if you think that also sets the stage for the slicker, cosmopolitan string sounds that continually pass for bluegrass, then you are underestimating just how mighty the mountain inspirations are in Town Mountain’s songs.

“We wanted to go for a more old school sounding thing,” said Town Mountain guitarist and vocalist Robert Greer. “That comes from having like minds of what kind of sound we want to hear. For instance, we’re way bigger Jimmy Martin fans than we are of … well, I don’t want to mention any names, but of  the bluegrass that’s selling today which is kind of paralleling pop-country. That seems to be the movement of bluegrass these days. We’re more into the gritty, honky tonk, old school kind of stuff.”

Helping to bring the mountains to Town Mountain on its two most recent recordings, 2011’s Steady Operator and 2012’s Leave the Bottle, is Mike Bub, an alumnus of one of the most heralded bluegrass troupes of recent years, The Del McCoury Band.

Town Mountain already had the songs lined up for Leave the Bottle, most of which were penned by mandolinist Phil Barker and banjoist Jesse Langlais. Fiddler Bobby Britt contributed the instrumental Four Miles, which spins bluegrass back to its Irish roots, while Greer added the blue collar barnburner Up the Ladder. An elegant but powerfully mournful reading of Loaded, by the decidedly non-bluegrass Wood Brothers, rounded out the repertoire. What Bub did was make the most of the live recording techniques Greer felt were necessary in capturing Town Mountain’s vintage-minded bluegrass vitality.

“The reason I contacted Mike was because we wanted to record live in the studio,” Greer said. “All of the records he did with Del – he made, I think, eight records with him – were done that way. Plus, he can pick apart harmonies and hear every part. Just his knowledge of bluegrass and country music is so extensive. The brand of bluegrass that he likes and enjoys is similar to what we’re into. That’s why we got him as opposed to a more contemporary minded, new school bluegrass guy.”

But Asheville also played a generous role in the formation of Town Mountain – specifically its very active music community which drew Greer to North Carolina from his South Georgia upbringing.

“There are a ton of younger musicians here,” Greer said. “That growth started probably 20 years ago. The arts scene was here before that. About the time I moved here 10 or 11 years ago, all of that was well in place. I moved to Asheville specifically for music. A lot of people are doing the very same thing. “

That community served Town Mountain well when bassist Rob Parks was enlisted as its newest member late last year.

“This band was founded by friends who met each other at picking parties here in Asheville. That’s the way we’ve rolled when we had turnovers. We just picked up another good musician buddy here in town. That’s how we’ve done it in the past. Rob is working out like a champ, too. He’s going to fit in a van just as well as he’s going to fit in onstage.”

Town Mountain with Arthur & Arthur perform at 8 p.m. Jan. 24 at Natasha’s Bistro, 112 Esplanade. Tickets are $12. Call  (859) 259-2754 or go to www.beetnik.com.

critic’s pick 314: rosanne cash, ‘the river & the thread’

rosanne cash“There’s never any highway when you’re looking for the past,” sings Rosanne Cash over a slight but slinky groove at the onset of her fascinating new album The River & The Thread. Perhaps that’s why the record, inspired by a view of the South that is both personal and illusionary, boasts a snapshot of the singer peering over the Tallahatchie Bridge in Mississippi as its cover art.

The bridge’s symbolism, whether intentional or not, is twofold. Like The River & The Thread, it represents a literary country music past (it’s the focal point of Bobbie Gentry’s 1967 hit Ode to Billie Joe) and a guidepost to the Tallahatchie River that runs through Mississippi, where the spirits of everything from the birth of the blues to the civil rights movement mingle.

Cash, a Memphis native, is seldom that literal or linear in the songs she penned for the record with husband, producer and guitarist John Leventhal. Nor do the Southern regions outlined in the music always seem accepting to the probing eyes of an outside world. “You’re not from around here,” she sings in World of Strange Design. “You’re probably not our kind.” Typically astute and intuitive slide guitar colors from Derek Trucks accentuate the tune’s wary tone.

But as is always the case with Cash’s best music, there is also abundant (though often unanticipated) warmth throughout The River & The Thread. Redemption comes calling through the Sunday airwaves (“a new old desire”) during 50,000 Watts. That leads into the Civil War-era love story When the Master Calls the Roll, where salvation is sought not only sought for a soldier killed by a cannon blast but for an entire embattled nation.

Cash returns to the Tallahatchie on the album-closing Money Road, a rolling blues-accented meditation where salvation is meditated upon in more personal but remote terms (“I was dreaming about the deepest blue, but what you seek is seeking you”).

Such confessional and contemplative views are colored beautifully by Leventhal throughout the record with melodies and production that sound like a blues-country séance. But Cash is the true adventurer here, exploring a South she seems so purposely removed from yet forever tied to. Her resulting journey makes for the first truly great record of 2014.

the mountain comes to the mccourys

yonder mountain

yonder mountain string band in san francisco, april 2012. from left: jeff austin, adam aijala, dave johnston, ben kaufmann. photo by jay blakesberg.

Yonder Mountain String Band found itself at a happy crossroads in November.

On one side sat confirmed plans for the first tour of 2014 by the Colorado-based quartet, which has been employing traditional bluegrass instrumentation to address jam-style grooves and improvisation for over 15 years. On the other sat the baby daughter Yonder mandolinist Jeff Austin and his wife were about welcome into the world.

Of course neither party could have forecast that both endeavors would run smack into each other this month.

The solution – the “only” choice, as described by Austin on the band’s website – called for a temporary shakeup in the Yonder ranks. Austin would spend January at home while his longtime bandmates – banjoist Dave Johnston, bassist Ben Kaufmann and guitarist Adam Aijala – would continue with road duties. Luckily, 15 years of steady touring establishes some strong professional friendships. So Yonder Mountain called upon two members of the Grammy winning Del McCoury Band, mandolinist Ronnie McCoury and Ashland-born fiddler Jason Carter, to augment the trio for most of its January concert dates. Sweetening the deal would be a full opening set at these shows by The Travelin’ McCourys, which is the Del McCoury Band minus patriarch Del.

“We’re just trying to come up with something that is unique and sure to be a lot of fun,” Johnston said. “So we’re going to Yonder-ize Ronnie and Jason and have them run the gauntlet with us. No doubt they will run it very successfully. So while it’s not going to be the same thing as a typical Yonders show, we’re really excited about getting the opportunity to expand our musical imaginations in different directions and maybe come up with different ways to work with Yonder in the future.”

On paper, it might seem the Yonders and the McCourys come from stylistically different camps. But while the latter is an immensely proficient and steadfast group rooted in bluegrass tradition, they have also been very broad minded when it comes to collaboration and building a young fanbase for roots-driven string music. So over the years, the McCourys have shared stages with such jam band stalwarts as The Allman Brothers Band, Phish and Keller Williams in addition to Yonder Mountain.

“This situation speaks not of a categorical musical character,” Johnston said. “It speaks of a love for musical expression, a way to reach people with a traditional template.

“The McCourys were certainly role models for me. They’re great friends and a great band. There are a lot of benefits to just knowing that whole family. So we’re really pumped. Still, this kind of collaboration is not all that common in the bluegrass world. It’s not that common period.”

The Yonders have regularly performed with guest artists. For its recent five night New Year’s engagement at the Boulder Theater, the band enlisted new grass heroes Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas along with Pete Wernick and Nick Forster from the landmark Colorado bluegrass band Hot Rize and even pop celeb John Oates. But this month marks the first time Yonder Mountain has undertaken an entire leg of a tour with collaborators outside of the band.

“Here’s the thing with bluegrass and bluegrass-related music for any band,” Johnston said. “Chemistry is chemistry. You can’t necessarily recreate it in personnel. Chemistry informs a big part of Yonder Mountain, and I don’t look at that lightly. Having said that, there is now a different chemistry before us to explore. We can get our beakers and our flasks out and can start adding things. Frankly, I’m excited to see what this new configuration feels like. It’s all a mix of emotion and considerations.”

But perhaps the most satisfying aspect to the quintet version of Yonder Mountain touring this winter is that was not born out of the usual animosities that often divide bands permanently.

“The impetus behind doing this is one of goodwill in hoping Jeff’s new family member gets off to a good start. To that end, though, it’s also going to be fun watching these guys from what is arguably one of the greatest bluegrass bands of all time lay down a little knowledge on us in how they do things. Maybe we can even pick up a few things for when Jeff comes back to the band in March

“This is a unique, one-time-only thing – a chance to rekindle our musical imaginations. That’s pretty exciting.”

Yonder Mountain String Band and the Travelin’ McCourys perform at 8 p.m. Jan. 22

at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St. Tickets are $20 advance, $22 day of show. Call (859) 368-8871 or go to www.bustersbb.com.

roy campbell jr., 1952-2014

roy campbell jr

roy campbell jr.

Among the many triumphs of the 11 year old Outside the Spotlight Series of improvisational and free jazz performances came when OTS was a mere three months old.

At the crest of a winter that makes this season’s run of grey and cold seem like a cool breeze, trumpeter Roy Campbell, Jr. headlined the series’ only performance at what remains its most unexpected performance setting – the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government Ballroom.

The time was February 2003, a period when half the city had been sitting in darkness and bitter cold for a week following an ice storm. Maybe that explained why the ballroom was so packed for an evening of abstract music. It was one of the few public locales with electricity.

Aided by two extraordinary co-horts that made up his Pyramid Trio – drummer Hamid Drake, an OTS regular, and the brilliant New York bassist/composer/improviser William Parker, Campbell triggered collective chases of fearsome immediacy with a series of improvisations – some of which ran for over an hour – for a crowd thrilled to be out of the cold and into the fire of jazz creativity. Even then-mayor Teresa Isaac sat in attendance for much of the concert.

It was a defining moment for OTS, one that introduced Lexington to the kind of music that can usually only found in large metropolitan cities with a schooled and adventurous arts scene. But the performance also came to the rescue of a frozen city with a considerable need of a jolt of living, breathing artistic expression.

Campbell died on Jan. 9 at the age of 61. The fact that his death didn’t reach the pages of the NewYork Times, which served the city he called home since the age of 2, until yesterday speaks to just how far removed from any kind of artistic mainstream his life and work extended.

There are scores of reasons why Campbell’s career deserves to be celebrated. They start with his bop roots and the various studies and apprenticeships he engaged in with such jazz pioneers as Lee Morgan, Kenny Dorham and Yusef Lateef and run through his co-founding in 2003 with Dave Douglas of the Festival of New Trumpet Music in New York.

But from a purely selfish standpoint, all that pales next to the gift of musical warmth Campbell gave Lexington over a decade ago.

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