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Energetic Campbell At The Biltmore

July 24, 1987|LEONARD FEATHER

At the Grand Avenue Bar of the Biltmore Hotel Wednesday, the early evening session (5 to 9 p.m.) was placed in the fast-moving hands of Kerry Campbell, an alto saxophonist from Detroit who settled in the Southland a couple of years ago.

Campbell has enough going for him to guarantee a measure of success: He is in his late 20s, very personable and he moves around, in the course of a long and busy solo, persuasively enough to incite his listeners to mid-chorus applause.

Although he names Charlie Parker as his idol, Campbell plays with a degree of overt energy that Parker never displayed and, in fact, did not need. One set began with the kind of blistering attack on a tune (ironically, it was entitled "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise") that could better have been reserved for the closing number.

Part of the problem could be blamed on the room's slightly woozy sound system, but most of the trouble lay in the percussion department. The more furiously Mike Baker played, the greater the multi-noted explosions from Campbell's horn, resulting in an excess of excesses. The situation simmered down a little in "All Blues" and belatedly achieved a consistently good groove on " 'Round Midnight," with Campbell relatively relaxed and Johnny Hammond Smith contributing some Erroll Garnerish piano chords. Completing the group was Dannell Lambert, a discreet and steady bassist.

Given less intrusive support, and allowing motion to take second place to emotion, Campbell could yet reach the heights already attained by, say, Frank Morgan. Creatively, he already starts where Kenny G leaves off. Campbell will be back at the Grand Avenue Bar every Wednesday in August.

Footnote: The Biltmore's Rendezvous Court offers some charming, harmonically sophisticated piano and Bobby Short-style vocals by Dini Clarke.

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