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Clockwise: The Music Of Cedar Walton – Ben Markley Big Band featuring Terell Stafford – OA2

Clockwise: The Music Of Cedar Walton – Ben Markley Big Band featuring Terell StaffordOA2 22139, 75:42 ****:

A creative outing that is  full of  intelligence and inquisitiveness.

(Ben Markley Big Band = Ben Markley – piano; featuring Terell Stafford – trumpet)

Cedar Walton, who died on August 19, 2013, at age seventy-nine, was an American who originally made his name as a hard-bop pianist with the early sixties version of the Art Blakey Jazz Messengers. His first recording session with the band included several players who became household name such as Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Curtis Fuller, Jaymie Merritt in addition to Blakey. The name of the recording label was Mosaic. As he developed his style as a pianist, he also showed promise as a composer wherein many of his efforts became recognized as jazz standards  such as Bolivia and Holy Land among others, and are showcased here in big band arrangements.

Ben Markley and his cohorts from the University of Wyoming and Denver Colorado have put together a smart aggregation that has taken Markley’s charts of Walton’s tunes to deliver a solid session. Opening with “Cedar’s Blues” the saxophone section shows its harmonic chops early on, leading to trumpeter Stafford flexing his solo muscles with some bold playing. All in all this is an expressively swinging track.

The title tune “Clockwise” starts with bassist Ken Walker setting the tone with full-throated solo and then remaining fully engaged as the number weaves it way through the theme. When trumpeter John Lake takes the lead, Walker is in ever-present support. The composition is an interesting statement filled with musical insights.

The two Latin numbers in this release are “Fiesta Español” and one of Walton’s most recognizable numbers “Bolivia”. They could not be more different with the former a salsa rocket ready for take off. Drummer Chris Smith keeps up the rhythmic intensity as pianist Ben Markley lays down a few choruses of solid single note playing which is picked up by the trombone of Paul McKee. The latter number is a very different vehicle with a modal theme, complex changes with some unusual chord sequences. Pianist Markley and trombonist McKee are the solo placeholders in the arrangement.

Another of Walton’s signature compositions is “Holyland”. Originally conceived as a minor blues it was first recorded in 1973 by The Cedar Walton Trio – A Night At Boomers – Vol 1. It is an intricately harmonic piece with multiple layers and as conceived here trumpeter Terell Stafford takes the lead solo voice and he does so with brio. As the longest track on the album, the arrangement provides both the band and the lead players the opportunity to impress.

This is a very creative outing that is full of intelligence and inquisitiveness.

TrackList: Cedar’s Blues; Clockwise; Fiesta Español; Hindsight; I’ll Let You Know; I’m Not So Sure; Holy Land; Bolivia; Martha’s Prize; Black

—Pierre Giroux

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