It’s been 13 years since jazz guitarist Royce Campbell left Indy for Virginia and what has become a career devoted to composition. And while he doesn’t find as much time for gigs anymore, he still found his way to the stage for a reunion stand by Cathy Morris & Collage Aug. 8-9 at the Jazz Kitchen. Campbell, an original member of Collage, is responsible for a sizable number of pieces in the group’s playbook.
Campbell was an active player on the local jazz scene for two decades. But he didn’t always stick around town: He toured with Marvin Gaye and Mel Torme, and was a regular member in the Henry Mancini Orchestra with fellow Indy jazz musicians Steve Dokken and the late Jack Gilfoy.
“I have been in Virginia since 1995,” Campbell explains. “A major change for me in recent years is I make more of my living all of the time composing. I had songs in movies and on network TV and through Muzak. It’s a nice alternative source of income. It's so difficult trying to make a living playing gigs anymore. I still play when I can but not as much as I would like to.”
But it’s not always easy to find quality projects: Campbell admits that he’s scored a movie that turned out so poorly that he didn’t want his name on the credits.
Campbell’s jazz recording output has been prolific, including a tribute to his stylistic forbear Wes Montgomery released in the mid ’90s. “I have done a lot of different types of jazz,” Campbell says. “I have done recordings in a gypsy type of jazz. I have done smooth jazz recordings under the name of R.C. & The Groove Diggers. I still put out a lot mainstream jazz recordings. I just reached a milestone of releasing my 20th CD.”
Campbell retains a touring schedule, particularly in Japan, where he’s toured 10 times as a headliner and appears on Japanese network television when in the country. “To be honest, the Japanese appreciate jazz more than Americans,” Campbell says. “It’s a little sad that Americans are not more supportive of their own art form. It is nice [that] there are places like Japan and Europe for jazz musicians to play.” Last year, Campbell toured Dubai and Istanbul with vocalist Freddie Cole. And he’s keeping alive the legacy of an Indianapolis jazz legend. “A couple of months ago I did a tour in Australia and Singapore as a headliner as a tribute to Wes Montgomery,” Campbell says.
Campbell says he would like to tour more with his own group instead of composing for others. “I would like to work a little more than I do,” he says. “To be honest, I wouldn’t want to be touring all of the time. Traveling is difficult anymore; the older I get, it’s a little more difficult.”
Campbell knows the business of music from running his own Moon Cycle record label. While he says it’s difficult to distribute his music, things are looking up: He just signed a distribution deal with St. Louis-based Max Jazz. His first release on Max Jazz is on the way next June: a reissue of his 1996 CD “A Tribute to Henry Mancini.”
Jazz on Labor Day weekend
Labor Day weekend offers three days of outdoor sounds for jazz lovers.
A new event debuts Saturday Aug. 30: “Jamming For Jerry’s Kids” presented by Stasia’s Supper Club at 2441 Lafayette Road. This event begins at 7 p.m. in Stasia’s parking lot. Top local blues and jazz artist scheduled to perform include Harvey & the Bluenotes, Chubby & The All Stars, Kevin “Flash” Ferrell, Finnell Factor, Steve Weakley, John Harden Project, Harold “Mad” Cardwell, Clinton Taylor and many more. It’s $15 for advance tickets and $20 at the door, with a meal included with all tickets. Group sales per table of 10 are available.
A portion of the proceeds will be delivered to the Jerry Lewis telethon. For more information and tickets call 920-8614.
Sunday Aug. 31, the Second Annual Lotzajazz event will be presented by Flanner and Buchanan Funeral Center at Washington Park North Cemetary and Funeral Center, 2702 Kessler Boulevard West Drive. The event directly benefits Pike High School’s “Realizing Your Dreams” scholarships. Lotzajazz will feature “Sizzlin” Gregg Bacon, Cathy Morris, Cynthia Layne, Jerrell Smith. Morris will perform with a group of backing musicians that all hail from Pike High School, including a jazz band, gospel choir and acoustic guitarist. The rain or shine concert goes from 3-8 p.m. and is free and open to the public. A donation of $5 per car is requested with proceeds going to the scholarship fund. All proceeds from concessions will also go to the Pike High School scholarship fund. Lawn chairs and blankets are encouraged but chair rentals will be available that benefit the scholarship fund
I will be your host for this worthy event. For more information call 259-1253.
Monday, Sept. 1, the annual free Jazz Kitchen Labor Day Street Fair takes place from 12-6 p.m. at 54th Street and College Avenue.
Jazz artist lineup features
12:30-2 p.m. The Steve Allee Trio
2:30-4 p.m. The Bill Lancton Coalition
4:30-6 p.m. The Dixon/Rhyne Project
Food and beverages will be available from the Jazz Kitchen and Yats.