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Seasoned Wood

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Album Review

Well known for his work as the pianist in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and his seminal labors as pianist for Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, and Sonny Criss in the 1960s, and with Clifford Jordan on his seminal Glass Bead Games and Night of the Mark VII sessions in the 1970s, Cedar Walton is nonetheless often overlooked as a bandleader. As evidenced by 2008's Seasoned Wood, this should not be the case. At 74, Walton is as promising and as dizzying a bandleader as ever. His command of the hard bop and post-bop languages and his abilities to reinterpret well-known standards authoritatively are all remarkable. Here he is accompanied by longtime drummer Al Foster, saxophonist Vincent Herring, young trumpeter/flügelhorn upstart Jeremy Pelt, and bassist Peter Washington. Herring has been part of Walton's band for over 15 years; the pianist and Foster have played together literally dozens of times since the 1960s. The program consists of five originals, the Gershwin standard "The Man I Love," Jimmy Heath's "Longravity," and the standard "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square." The main element here is a deep-rooted swing no matter the tune. From the first notes of the Gershwin number, opened by Walton's comping over the two-horn front line, it's everywhere. Walton extrapolates his reading of the tune from Thelonious Monk, and changes up by letting Washington solo first. Herring's solo follows and it's springlike and exuberant, as Walton's big chord comping is percussive and just ahead of the beat. The real rewards of the set, however, are the pianist's own compositions. The flamenco-tinged opening theme in "Clockwise" gives way to a breezy, airy waltz that is elegant and knotty — especially as the theme interacts with the midtempo balladic melody. Walton has written many ballads in his day, but "When Love Is New" is among his most lyrical and warm. The shimmering melody is whispered as Pelt solos on flügelhorn, offering a textured silkiness that adds layers of implied meaning. Contrast this with "Plexus," a seemingly angular twist-and-turn post-bop number that is full of surprises in its stops and starts, staggered solo moments, Latin tinges, and time changes. Walton's solo is startling for its ease in the difficult pocket of steps, lending elements of grace and elegance to the sprightly tempo and advanced harmonic shapes. In sum, Seasoned Wood is a true and exceptional highlight in Walton's career. High Note as a label is on a tear in 2008 with killer dates by Larry Willis, David "Fathead" Newman, and Don Braden. Seasoned Wood is another very notable notch in the imprint's belt as well as Walton's.


Born: January 17, 1934 in Dallas, TX

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the most valued of all hard bop accompanists, Cedar Walton was a versatile pianist whose funky touch and cogent melodic sense graced the recordings of many of jazz's greatest players. He was also one of the music's more underrated composers; although he was always a first-rate interpreter of standards, Walton wrote a number of excellent tunes ("Mosaic," "Ugetsu," and "Bolivia," to name a few) that found their way into Art Blakey's book during the pianist's early-'60s stint with the Jazz Messengers....
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Seasoned Wood, Cedar Walton
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  • $7.92
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: Jul 15, 2008

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