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Featured Musician - September 2009

Name : Lars Campbell

Lars Campbell

Instrument:  trombone

Early Years/Education: Until I was thirteen, I lived in Arizona near Tuscon, but I spent my high school years in Vancouver, Wash. at Mountain View High School. I started on trombone when I was nine. I think my desire to play the trombone came out of a dream. I remember dreaming that one of my parent’s friends in Arizona showed me his trombone and I decided to play it. My mother tells me that he didn’t play anything at all. My parents don’t play anything, but Mom is a big jazz listener. I didn’t get serious about it until we moved here and got some good teachers. Jeff Usitalo was my private teacher. By my junior year I was in the Portland Youth Philharmonic. In the summers I’d play in a big band organized by Beacocks music in Vancouver. I was always looking for any chance to play. During my first year of college, I was a Chemistry major at Mt. Hood Community College. I really enjoyed it, but I missed playing, and when I got together with my music friends they’d talk about music theory and stuff I was really interested in, so I switched to music. After Mt. Hood I went to the University of Northern Colorado to study with one of the greatest trombone teachers in the country, Buddy Baker. I was in a class of forty other trombone students. Buddy retired, so I left. After that I went to the Banff Jazz Workshop and then onto Portland State University for my degree in jazz performance. I actually started in classical trombone, but I decided I didn’t want to work full time for a symphony orchestra. I still do classical and jazz. I sub in the Oregon Symphony, sub for the ballet, I am a member of the Columbia Symphony Orchestra. I’ve tried to keep up both jazz and classical ... I think you should be well-rounded.
When I play in a classical orchestra, I play differently because the sound I hear in my head is different. I try to make a sound appropriate to whereever I go or what I’m playing in, be it a symphony, a jazz orchestra, Bobby Torres’ group or in a jazz trio. I try and play appropriately, it’s pretty key to sustaining a career as a free-lance musician. You have to adapt, the style for a Latin ensemble is different than in a small jazz club. I’ve been blessed to be a really good reader. The Oregon Symphony has called me an hour before ... that’s the challenge of sustaining a career in music.
The trombone is the one instrument that has not changed in hundreds of years. Everything else has undergone a major change in the way it’s made and played. There’s quite a large classical repertoire for trombone. Mozart’s dad wrote a trombone concerto, Mozart wrote trombones in all of his choral pieces. There’s a trombone association that holds a contest every year for composers to write pieces for trombone. The modern repertoire is growing; there are a lot of trombone players.

Portland Jazz Orchestra: Charley Gray (Director of Jazz Studies at PSU) and I are the co- directors of the Portland Jazz Orchestra. I run the business end of it and Charley does the music end. We actually formed the band two years ago. We wanted to start it slowly, to build momentum and to get the 5013c designation before we started to do anything big. October 2 will be our first concert of the 2009/2010 season. We’ll be featuring the music of Buddy Rich. On December 4 we’ll be doing Ellington’s Nutcracker and the music of Peanuts (Vince Guaraldi). February 12 it’s the music of Tito Puente featuring Bobby Torres and his rhythm section. April 9 we hope to bring in Kenny Wheeler and his music for large and small ensembles. This year we’re trying out the First United Methodist Church on 18th and Jefferson. Also new this year, pianist Darrell Grant will join us. Our first full season was this past year. Other groups I play in include: Bobby Torres Ensemble, Pepe and the Bottle Blonds, Linda Michelet’s group and Nu Shooz.

Musical Influences: Dave Douglas, Tony Malaby, Kenny Wheeler, Jan Garbarek, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Leos Janacek.

Most Satisfying Experience: Career-wise it would be coming out of the last day of the Portland Jazz Orchestra’s season having put together a full season with a large ensemble, using huge venues, and big audiences and making our goals and ending up in the black. Playing-wise, probably the Banff workshop with Tony Malaby (amazing tenor sax player from New York). He has such a unique way of thinking about and playing the music. His whole thing is about complete listening. He tries not to listen to what he plays and to listen to what everyone else plays. He lets his playing take care of itself.

Favorite Recordings: John Coltrane: “Crescent,” “John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman”; Ray Anderson, “Azurety”; Dave Douglas: “Charms of the Night Sky” (w/the Tiny Bell Trio), “Live in Europe”; Patricia Barber, “Modern Cool”; Tony Malaby, “Adobe”; Wayne Shorter, “High Life”; Miles Davis, “1964 Concert”; Maria Schneider, “Allegresse”;
and Janacek, “String Quartets.”

Discography: Chopslaughter “Saffron Robe”; Portland Jazz Orchestra “Good Morning Geek”; w/Ken Ollis, “Confluence”; w/Tim Bryson Project, “Playground”; w/Pepe and the Bottle Blonds, “Pambrosia”; w/Pink Martini, “Hang on Little Tomato”; and w/Tim Jensen on a yet to be released CD.

Gigs: Sept. 3, Bobby Torres Ensemble @ Bridgeport Village; Sept. 4, Five Guys named Moe @ Ashland; Sept. 6, Oregon Symphony @ Oregon State Fair in Salem; Sept. 12., Bobby Torres Ensemble @ Jimmy Maks; Sept.. Pepe and the Bottle Blondes @ PCPA; Sept. 17, Linda Lee Michelet Big Band @ Tony Starlight’s; Sept. 26, Columbia Symphony @ Mt. Hood Community College, Gresham; Oct. 2, Portland Jazz Ochestra @ First United Methodist Church; Oct. 5, Chopslaughter @ Bus Project benefit; Oct. 10, PJO @ Saint Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church, Wilsonville, OR; Oct. 18, Columbia Symphony @ First United Methodist Church; Oct. 30, Portland Jazz Composer’s Ensemble @ Old Church; Oct. 31, Pepe and the Bottle Blondes @ Crystal Ballroom.

Future Plans: I’m writing a sextet book of my own compositions. That has to be my biggest personal goal. I also want to see the Portland Jazz Orchestra grow to the level of hiring an executive director. I like running it, but I’m not the most qualified person. With any problem that arises I have to learn on the fly. I’m also going to pursue a masters degree at PSU next year.

Other Comments: The musicians who are moving here are getting better and better. Hopefully some more clubs might open; there aren’t a lot of medium-sized venues for one hundred to three hundred people that aren’t expensive to rent. It seems like the east side is particularly lacking in performance spaces.

-- by Rita Rega


Copyright 2009, Jazz Society of Oregon