Primary Instrument: Bass
In a feature article on James Cammack, Bass Player Magazine reviewer Richard Johnston nicknamed James, who was at the time a Chicago resident, “Chicago fire,” for his hard-driving, creative approach to playing both acoustic and electric bass. At rehearsals of even the most complicated jazz pieces, Cammack just puts a finger on his instrument to find the key, asks for the general feel, and takes off. An extremely sensitive player, Cammack is an excellent sideman and his own solos demonstrate both virtuosity and musicality.
It’s no wonder. For the past 28 years, James Cammack has performed continuously with legendary pianist Ahmad Jamal. Cammack has visited more than 30 countries backing Jamal and has also toured with singer Nancy Wilson, tubist Howard Johnson, and singer Vanessa Rubin. He has performed in some of the world’s most famous jazz clubs such as the Village Vanguard in New York City and Yoshi’s in San Francisco; and major jazz festivals, including the Montreal Jazz Festival, Italy’s Umbria Jazz Festival, and the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland.
Cammack has several recordings with Ahmad Jamal under his belt, including Rossiter Road (Atlantic), which reached the number-five position on the jazz chart billboard and the last release is It’s Magic(Dreyfus). There is also a new dvd just released, Ahmad Jamal Live In Baalbeck. He has also recorded with pianist Chris Neville, Russian actress Natalia Nazorova, tubist Howard Johnson, and Senegal super star, to name a few.
A piano and trumpet student in his early years, Cammack is largely self-taught. He became interested in playing the bass through an uncle who was also a professional musician. Later, by the recommendation of a high school teacher, Cammack was accepted into the West Point jazz band following an audition. During his stint in the military, Cammack had ample opportunity to play weddings, shows, and jazz gigs in the New York area and learned his trade. A great music associate, pianist and mentor, the late Frank Richmond, mentioned Cammack’s name to Ahmad Jamal, who snapped him up right after West Point.