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November 2008

Cedar Walton
Seasoned Wood
HighNote Records

Cedar Walton is a primary source of postbop piano classicism. His instantly identifiable style contains both passion and a sense of relaxed naturalness that comes from working within a language he helped invent and has mastered.

Walton’s vast discography goes back 40 years (and he got started late). In the new millennium he has assembled an exceptional and diverse body of work on the HighNote label. There have been solo, trio and quartet sessions, Latin and standards albums and now, Seasoned Wood, which is primarily a take-no-prisoners quintet date. The band is mostly new for Walton. He has played a lot with saxophonist Vincent Herring, some with drummer Al Foster, and rarely with bassist Peter Washington and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt. They mesh. Washington and Foster provide complex energy yet leave space. Pelt is bright and quick and smart throughout. Herring sounds like he might jump out of his shoes on “The Man I Love.”

Still, what is special about this band is the piano player: his aggressive yet nuanced touch, his slightly eccentric harmonic sensibility, his grainy lushness. When Walton plays “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” and his own “When Love Is New,” he shows how romanticism is improved by tough love.

Originally published in November 2008
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