Cedar Walton – The Bouncer – High Note HCD 7223, 54:50 ****:
(Cedar Walton, piano; Vincent Herring, alto and tenor sax, flute; Steve Turre (tracks 1 & 5), trombone; David Williams, bass; Willie Jones III, drums; Ray Mantilla, percussion on track #5)
Cedar Walton has been so good for so long that you begin to run out of superlatives to describe his talents both as a pianist and as a composer. He has played with most all of the big names in the hard bop arena since the 1950s, and he is one of our last remaining vibrant pianists from that time period to continue to record even as he approaches his late 70s.
On his latest High Note CD, The Bouncer, Walton’s streak of excellence continues. He wrote six out of the eight tracks, as he shows he is not resting on his laurels at his age, not content to play his older songbook, nor just standards.
The title track is a bouncy number with Herring and Turre blending like fine wine on the song’s theme before Walton has several choruses. His playing is crisp, with sparkle, and drummer Willie Jones III, and bassist David Williams are locked into a groove before the horns return. The horns sit out on J.J. Johnson’s “Lament.”
“Bell for Bags” written for friend and vibraphonist, Milt Jackson, gives Vincent Herring center stage while Cedar is content to comp behind his mate. “Halo” has Vincent showing his prowess on flute. Congas are added by percussionist Ray Mantilla on the bossa nova driven “Underground Memoirs.”
It’s back to the trio setting for Walton’s tribute to his drummer, and Jones obliges with deft stick work. Impressive also are the acoustics provided (as always) by Rudy Van Gelder for David Williams warm bass solo. Next is the longest track, “Got to Get to the Island,” written by Williams, who has been with Cedar for over two decades, and the alto sax choruses by Herring bring to mind the islands.
Chalk up another winner for Walton….
TrackList: The Bouncer, Lament, Bell for Bags, halo, Underground Memoirs, Willie’s Groove, Got to Get to the Island, Martha’s Prize
— Jeff Krow