Jazz CD Reviews

The Cedar Walton Songbook – Cedar Chest (compilation) – The Composer Collection Volume 6 – High Note

A chestfull of treasures.

Published on June 21, 2010

The Cedar Walton Songbook – Cedar Chest (compilation) – The Composer Collection Volume 6 – High Note

The Cedar Walton Songbook – Cedar Chest (compilation) – The Composer Collection Volume 6 – High Note HCD 6024, 60:17 ***½:

(Performers include: David “Fathead” Newman, Larry Coryell, Vincent Herring, Houston Person, Mark Murphy, Mike LeDonne, Sammy Figueroa)

According to the liner notes for Cedar Chest, this CD is the first-ever tribute album to the 76-year-old piano master Cedar Walton. Walton has been a first-rate sideman, band leader, and composer since the mid-50s, so it is surprising that it took Walton being named an American Jazz Master in Jan. 2010, before an album honoring him was undertaken. Cedar was in the mix in a big way before going out on his own. He was an integral member in one of Art Blakey’s most influential Jazz Messengers contingents in the 1960s (with Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter) as well as in Art Farmer’s Jazztet. Walton was active in seminal Lee Morgan issues and also accompanied Abbey Lincoln. For Blakey he wrote “Ugetsu”, “Mosaic” and “Bolivia”, so as a composer he never truly got his due. Till now, when a roster of High Note artists contribute Walton compositions from their own albums.

High Note has selected an eclectic mix of artists to honor Walton ranging from percussionist Sammy Figueroa, to saxophonists, Fathead Newman, Vincent Herring, and Houston Person. Guitarist Larry Coryell gets a track as well as vocalist Mark Murphy. The only pianist present is Mike LeDonne, who lately has been more active with the Hammond B-3 organ.

Figueroa begins with an upbeat “Firm Roots” on an album for which he received a Grammy nomination. Trumpeter Alex Norris has a blistering trumpet solo on this track. Fathead Newman contributes “Black” on which Walton plays piano and Steve Nelson’s vibes are featured. “Fantasy in D” first known as “Ugetsu” has fleet-fingered guitarist Larry Coryell being backed by Cedar.

Houston Person’s velvety “I’ll Let You Know” shows Person’s old school emotive tenor work. From Walton’s days as co-leader of 1980s Eastern Rebellion, we hear Fathead Newman honoring Walton on “Cedar’s Blues” which has Newman sharing center stage with another Blakey alumnus, Curtis Fuller, and backed by the composer himself. Also of note, High Note has included Mike LeDonne from his CD, High Live, with “Bleeker Street Theme” which Mike often uses as a set closer.

Cedar Chest could also have been titled Treasure Chest as it highlights Walton’s writing prowess with a liberal dose of his piano playing as well. Just like his long overdue induction as an American Jazz Master, Cedar Chest gives an “about time” tribute to Walton’s composing skills.
Firm Roots, Black, Fantasy in D, Simple Pleasures, I’ll Let You Know, Life’s Mosaic, Cedar’s Blues, Bleeker St. Theme, Newest Blues, Bolivia

– Jeff Krow

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