In the early 1990s Concord released a slew of solo recitals in its Maybeck Recital Hall Series. While the series does not include some of the finest jazz soloists from that era -- McCoy Tyner, Tommy Flanagan, Herbie Hancock, or Keith Jarrett, for instance -- it does present a wonderful and balanced portrait of what was happening in the late 20th century. The pianists in this series demonstrate amazing chops and creativity within a wide range of jazz idioms. It's not too much to say that these recordings, as a group, present jazz piano at its finest.
Many of the pianists in this series are less familiar because they work as accompanists. At the time of this recording, John Campbell was one such, best known as an up-and-comer who was currently backing Clark Terry and Mel Tormé. Given a chance to show his broader abilities, Campbell, like his confreres in the Maybeck series, turned in an outstanding set -- in this case of straight-ahead jazz piano. His renditions of "Just Friends," "Emily," "The Touch of Your Lips," and especially "You and the Night and the Music" can, to my ears, claim a place among the highlights of the Maybeck series. There isn't a track on this CD that's less than very good.
If Campbell has a weakness it is that his left hand is less resourceful than that of the best pianists. On the other hand, his mastery of shifting tonalities and his singing, soaring, always inventive right hand makes listening a great pleasure. Above all, at the end of each tune one feels that an artistic adventure with unexpected twists and turns has come to a most satisfying conclusion.
This is really good stuff, and I recommend it highly. Four and a half stars.