Global Bass Online June 2002
by Andy Long
Last Summer I visited Chapman Stick player Jim Lampi at his London home to interview him for Global Bass. At the time he had just finished the collaborative album 'Digital Dreaming' and was beginning to put together ideas for a third solo album. He had great hopes for the album and, now that it has arrived, I spoke to him again to get his thoughts on the finished product. Before that here are a few of my thoughts.
'Greazy' by Jim Lampi (Gila Records 2002).
Jim told me that he was going for a 'trio' feel with this album and, through careful selection of musicians for each track, he has achieved that feel and built on it with the addition of some keyboards. Overall the sound is not too busy and not so flashy as to be distracting. 'Greazy' kicks straight into the smooth jazz flavour of 'Surf & Turf', a gorgeous groove that sets the tone beautifully for the whole album. This opener features Doug Melbourne's Hammond B3 and vocals by Marie Claire Dubaldo. Vocals, but no lyrics that is. 'Greazy' treats the human voice as a musical instrument and the tracks are more concerned with the sound of the individual vocalists than with lyrics. There is just one song on the album that has any lyrics, the final track 'Still Free', featuring the legendary John Martyn. John also popped in for a bit of free vocalisation on 'Peggy'. Jim is considered to be one of the finest exponents of the Chapman Stick and the sound he gets from his twelve-string model is certainly an inspiration to both students (like me) and masters of the instrument. The bass side has a crisp, bright tone which punches it's way neatly through and complements the crystal clarity of the melody side. 'Coffee Break' kicks off with a melancholy descending bass line, supported by chords in the melody side and then Jim switches it around and plays bass roots underneath that original line. At least I think that's how he does it? Jim can always find umpteen ways to play a line, all equally effective and impressive. Marie is back in the vocal booth for 'Simpatico'. She, Jim and the Stick all take the lead line together and the sound they create together is uniquely delightful. I could go on, each track has it's own appeal and, for me at least, there were no fillers. With 'Greazy' Jim Lampi has realised his finest work to date, a splendid album that I hope will bring him to a wider audience.
I spoke to Jim about the album and asked him how he came to choose the variety of musicians involved
Arran Amun is John Martyns' drummer, and meister groovemaster. He always make me sound like I know what I'm doing. Spencer Cozens is also John's MD, producer on some of his albums and all around great player. Doug Melbourne is another fine keyboard player from 'Regenesis' and his new group Melbourne (author's note - Melbourne also features Doug's wife Carrie, another Stick player) who just happens to have a real, B3 in his living room. Chris Wells and I have worked on projects and performed together for quite a while. He is an all around great percussionist, drummer, composer who works quite a bit in Brazil. He also has a new CD out called 'Pra Sempre' featuring Ivan Lins. I was in Marie Claire Dubaldo's band when she was touring around '94. She has this great Arabic quality in her voice that I wanted in place of a horn.
So what about John Martyn then?7
'I've been performing on and off with John since about 96. We are perhaps going to be touring in June. So while talking to him about that last summer, I caught him with his defences down, asked him if I could get him to sing a little on the CD. Told him that Spen and Arran were already on it just to tempt him. He said it sounded like fun. Before he knew it I was on his doorstep with my little recorder. I told him to sing what ever he wanted. On 'Peggy' at first I told him to sing like Coltrane which made him laugh. But I wanted a tenor, bari quality.
I asked Jim where he got this whole idea of treating the vocals as another instrument rather than having lyrical input?
'First, I've always done this in my gigs to enforce the melodies. It also helps me to sometimes solo by trying to sing the line as I'm improvising. It helps makes you think more melodic with more natural space for breathing. I'm originally a sax player, so sometimes I just add that other line. Secondly everyone's voice normally has more original qualities than individual qualities of say one sax to another. Marie Claire also just has a much better voice than I do. She added a somewhat soprano sax quality. Thirdly- I didn't always want lyrics defining the compositions. Fourthly- I've always enjoyed this effect, Ex. Brazilian music, when I don't understand the lyrics I just hear the sound.'
So now you've heard my opinions and Jim's, you probably want to hear that CD for yourself right? Here's where to get it.
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