(Artists: Cedar Walton, piano; David Williams, bass; Joe Farnsworth, drums; Vincent Herring, tenor sax on Tracks 1 & 2 only)
Mention is made in the liner notes of Cedar Walton’s new High Note release of the loss in the last 5 years of many of our piano legends such as Tommy Flanagan, Roland Hanna, Mal Waldron, and most recently, John Hicks. This sad but true fact makes a new release by by Cedar Walton, with a top rated rhythm section to boot, a cause for celebration. High Note Records has been sparing no expense lately to record pianists in top drawer settings. Witness the recent release (reviewed here just in the last two weeks) of Bill Charlap with Houston Person, with Rudy Van Gelder engineering, recording and mastering. Not to be overlooked, Walton gets the full RVG treatment here as well.
Though primarily recorded as a trio, with David Williams on bass, and Joe Farnsworth on drums, the trio becomes a quartet with Vincent Herring, on tenor sax on the title cut; and on The Rubber Man, two swinging Walton compositions.These are followed by a Billy Strayhorn medley of Lush Life, Daydream, and Raincheck, all taken at a more aggressive pace, unlike the ballad readings that they usually get. Farnsworth’s brush work on Raincheck is exemplary and Walton’s firm touch is not overbearing on the Strayhorn medley.
Two other track selections chosen for this CD are from Walton’s former bandmates in one of the strongest editions of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers: Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter. From Freddie we get his classic, Little Sunflower, done in a 1960s funky style. Shorter’s Hammerhead features some rock steady accompaniment by Farnsworth and bassist Williams, with whom Walton regularly records.
Also on this CD’s journey is Sam Jones’ Seven Minds, which begins with a Williams bass solo that covers all the bases, so to speak. When Walton enters the arrangement, it is for another fast ride with Farnsworth firmly matching Walton’s pace. Farnsworth has the rock steady assurance to both play with a piano legend as well as on a funky Hammond B-3 session (also reviewed here) like Mike LeDonne’s recent live session at Smoke.
The classic Time After Time, a staple usually taken as a ballad, begins that way here, but then as on the Strayhorn medley morphs into a brisk workout. Van Gelder opines in the liner notes that Walton plays a bit different here than on other Walton sessions. I’d agree and call it the mark of confidence of a piano master with over 60 albums now to his credit.
Songs: One Flight Down, The Rubber Man, Billy Strayhorn Medley (Lush Life, Daydream, and Raincheck), Seven Minds, Time After Time, Hammerhead, Little Sunflower
– Jeff Krow