Royce Campbell is a career jazz musician who built his musical foundation by touring for 19 years with the legendary film and television composer and arranger, Henry Mancini. Those early years were undoubtedly the genesis for this CD, Movie Songs Project. Indeed, two Mancini tunes made it to the record: "Baby Elephant Walk," a light-hearted blues from the 1962 John Wayne movie Hatari; and the pretty ballad "Soldier in the Rain" from a 1963 Jackie Gleason/Steve McQueen military comedy of the same name.
While Royce Campbell gets lead artist billing, it's the "Royce Cambpell Trio plus Phil Woods" -- the record is on Woods' label, Philology, and Woods coves most of the melody work as well as getting lots of space for his signature solos that flow effortlessly from his bebop roots. This often puts Campbell in a supporting rhythm section role comping the changes, which he does marvelously well, refusing to draw attention to himself.
Using tunes from movies runs the risk of leading to a pop-ish, light jazz result. Fortunately, Campbell and Woods spare us that fate; they've produced a serious jazz record that just happens to draw on songs from mostly 1960s-era films. A good example is "The Shadow of Your Smile," done here in an easy swing style instead of the more typical ballad. Campbell, Woods, and bassist Bob Bowen take turns with lovely lyrical solos that are great, because each musician refuses to use his solo time to prove technical prowess and instead, just plays tasteful jazz.
Overall, this is an unpretentious jazz record that you won't have to work hard at to enjoy. Campbell and Woods are seasoned jazz pros with nothing more to prove so we get nothing less than friendly, straight-ahead jazz.