October 1999

Cedar Walton
Astor Place Recordings

Cedar Walton is an heir to those class acts that have made the piano so often the repository of the orchestral voice of jazz: The line that gave us Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson, and Nat Cole; Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan; Sir Roland Hanna and Kenny Barron. Here he gets a chance to give voice to his muse through a larger ensemble: the core trio of Walton, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Lewis Nash is augmented by an ensemble of trumpet, trombone, three saxophones and percussion. The solo spots go to a trio of guest stars: Joshua Redman on tenor, Terence Blanchard on trumpet and Mark Whitfield on guitar. The repertoire is all Cedar's, and no scent of mothballs here: from the opener, "Boliva," to the closer, "Firm Roots," the compositions sound fresh-benefitting from these new arrangements and from the range of solo styles that play over them. If I single out Blanchard's work as rising to the leader's level, that is not to say that Redman and Whitfield don't turn in strong performances: Whitfield has great range and melodic sense, and Redman seems totally at ease, playing to his colleagues and not to the crowd.

Originally published in October 1999
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