Cal Lampley, 82, producer of records, music educator

July 08, 2006|By JACQUES KELLY | JACQUES KELLY,SUN REPORTER

Cal Lampley, a retired musical educator who produced acclaimed jazz and pop records, died Thursday of complications from multiple sclerosis at Baltimore Washington Medical Center. The former Ednor Gardens resident was 82.

Mr. Lampley, also a composer and pianist, appeared on Maryland Public Television's The Critics' Place, where he reviewed classical music for 11 years in the 1970s and 1980s.

"He got tremendous exposure from the show, and nobody ever challenged him on the air because they were afraid of his comebacks," said Don Walls, a fellow critic who reviewed films. "Cal was meticulous and knowledgeable, and he employed an expressive posture -- always with a cigarette in the air, very Noel Coward. He helped make the chemistry work on the show and got a lot of mail."

Born in Dunn, N.C., Mr. Lampley earned a degree at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University and served in the 364th Infantry during World War II. He used his GI Bill benefits to enroll in New York's Juilliard School of Music.

There he studied piano with Irwin Freundlich and composition with Richard Franko Goldman, who was later the director of the Peabody Conservatory and who hired Mr. Lampley to teach on its faculty.

After his Carnegie Hall piano debut in 1950, Mr. Lampley became a music tapes editor for Columbia Records. It was during this period that he was instrumental in transferring old 78-rpm recordings to the new technology of long-playing vinyl records.

While working at Columbia, he caught the eye of producer George Avakian, who made him his assistant. In 1957, he worked with Mr. Avakian on Miles Davis' landmark album Miles Ahead.

"He did quite a bit of the editing work on that album and supervised a bit of it," Mr. Avakian said yesterday from his Riverdale, N.Y., home, adding that he considered Mr. Lampley "a pioneer African-American in the recording industry at the time, in that he [also] worked with so many white artists."

One day, he recalled, clarinetist Benny Goodman referred to Mr. Lampley as "Columbia's Teddy Wilson," comparing him to the black pianist who blazed trails by playing alongside white instrumentalists in the 1930s.

Mr. Lampley's work included another jazz classic, The Essential Dave Brubeck.

Mr. Lampley also worked as a producer for Louis Armstrong, Leonard Bernstein, pianist Guimar Novaes, Duke Ellington and gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, with whom he worked extensively. He also produced recordings for the Irish singer Carmel Quinn and the Paris-born singer Patachou.

After working at Columbia, he went on to Warner Brothers and RCA Victor records. He hosted a Sunday evening WCBM-AM radio program in the 1970s that mixed jazz and the classics.

In a 1974 interview in The Evening Sun, he discussed artistic crankiness and his experience working with Judy Garland.

"It didn't bother me because it was the result of her desire for perfection," he told a reporter. "Most times when you find people being temperamental, it's because they have no talent or they're unprepared."

Mr. Lampley moved to Baltimore in 1968 to initiate Peabody's recording and jazz programs. An article in The Sun said he was the conservatory's first full-time African-American faculty member.

He was a former Morgan State University faculty member, teaching piano and composition for 18 years before retiring several years ago. He also composed musical works given their first performances by the Maryland Youth Symphonette.

In recognition of his contributions to the city and the state, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke proclaimed May 1, 1994, Cal Lampley Day in Baltimore at a City Hall ceremony.

Mr. Lampley leaves no close survivors. He requested no funeral.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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