The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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July 17, 2014

KMSU host brings the smooooth jazzzz

Longtime jazz show host about to celebrate 10 years on the air

Gary Campbell’s love affair with jazz music was spurred by saxophonist John Coltrane’s landmark 1957 “Blue Train” album.

More than 40 years and several vinyl and CD copies later, the KMSU (89.7 FM) volunteer disc jockey is bringing it back home with Coltrane.

During an interview at KMSU’s studios, the affable host of Thursday night’s “Maverick Slim Jazz Show” considered his playlist for his belated 10th anniversary show. Fittingly, Campbell declared “Blue Train,” a classic in the jazz canon, was the leading contender to start the show.

“This is one of my all-time favorites,” Campbell said as he dropped the needle on his original vinyl of “Blue Train,” and Coltrane’s sax riffs filled the room. “Anything you bought with Coltrane on it was great.”

Campbell was introduced to progressive jazz via friends from Chicago at Gustavus Adolphus College in the late 1960s. He was drawn to Charles Mingus and Ornette Coleman; Coltrane had caught his ear, leading Campbell to order “Blue Train” on a whim from a Schwann Record Catalog.

“The catalog just gave dates, and that was it,” he said. “There was no lineup of who the musicians were. I just ordered it on the basis of the title: ‘Blue Train.’ I thought, ‘That should be pretty cool.’”

Jazz, country, blues, rockabilly — Campbell is a veritable walking, talking encyclopedia of American music. In his musical universe, free jazzer Sun Ra, bawdy blues shouter Big Joe Turner and country yodeler Jimmie Rodgers all occupy the same orbit. But he’s no snob, just passionate about the music he loves.

“The flow is important,” Campbell said of his playlist structure. “I’m very particular about it. To me, it all makes sense. I like to sprinkle in some familiarity, and somehow link a song to something that’s supposed to be removed from that period, but yet there’s a chord there that connects them.”

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