Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Campbell, John, pianist; b. Bloomington, Ill., 7 July 1955. He is also quite capable on vibraphone, string bass, and drums. His father's father played piano and organ semi-professionally, an uncle was a school band director, and his younger brother is an amateur drummer. His parents were music fans and he was drawn to their jazz records at an early age. He started piano at 7; early favorites were Erroll Garner, Jim Hall, Gillespie, Getz, Brubeck, Goodman. As a teenager he taught himself drums, bass and vibraphone on high school instruments and studied with a classical piano teacher. At that time he became interested in Oscar Peterson, as well as Phineas Newborn, Bud Powell, and Hank Jones. He started performing at school dances and had a steady gig at Shakey's pizza parlor with a banjo player.
He attended Illinois State College nearby in Normal, 1973-75, and gigged locally with his own trios and combos, playing CTI-styled fusion as well as standards. He was a percussion major at the college and also took some bass lessons, while continuing to study piano privately. In 1976 he moved to Chicago to pursue his performing career. He led a quartet with Edward Petersen (now in New Orleans) from around 1978 to c. 1982. His trio with college friends Kelly Sill (bass) and Joel Spencer (drums) worked at the Jazz Showcase backing up Eddie Jefferson (two nights before he was murdered in May 1979), Eddie Harris (several times; he used to ask for them), James Moody, Red Rodney, Bunky Green, and others. Also gigs with Jazz Members Big Band, and David Liebman, who convinced him to come to NY in 1984, where he lived in the Riverdale part of the Bronx.
He played with Stan Getz in 1984 (including a televised concert in Newport), worked and recorded on occasion with Clark Terry from about 1984 on, and spent 86-90 touring with Mel Torme. He then worked with Milt Jackson (at Montreal festival and a N.Y. Jazzmobile concert), Moody (Montreal fest), Cleo Laine and Johnny Dankworth, Greg Gisbert, and played at the Four Seasons two or more nights a week, solo and with Jerry Dodgion, 93-7. He moved back to Chicago in 1997, where he reformed his trio (initially with Sill and Spencer) and continues to freelance.
After Hours (1988); Turning Point (1990); Live at Maybeck Recital Hall (1993); Broadcast, Chicago Jazz Festival, 198(2?); T. Gibbs; Clark Terry; Mel Torm; G. Gisbert; Eddie Jefferson at the Jazz Showcase; Mel Torme, New Year's Eve; Torme, in Performance at the White House; Jazz Members; Stan Getz, Newport