Cedar Walton: The Promise Land

There’s no way that anyone will ever really replace the late, legendary Billy Higgins, but Kenny Washington is doing an admirable job of filling the drum chair on Cedar Walton’s The Promise Land (HighNote HCD 7081; 57:39). This is Walton’s first CD with his new drummer and everything seems to fall comfortably into place. The repertoire, a mix of standards and originals, includes the title track, which Walton wrote while with Art Blakey in the early ’60s, as well as “Back to Bologna,” written for the cooperative quartet Eastern Rebellion in the mid-’70s. “Body and Soul” has a lovely unaccompanied piano intro that segues into a graceful samba. The fiery alto saxophonist Vincent Herring comes up with some inspired playing, especially on the title track and “Bremond’s Blues.” There are some surprises in this collection: “Darn That Dream” has an interesting arrangement that shifts from 4/4 for the solos into 3/4 for the bridge, and it’s great to hear jazz musicians tackle “I’ll Know,” a neglected song from Frank Loesser’s Guys & Dolls. The only piece that doesn’t quite work is “Thirty Degrees to the Wind,” an unsuccessful attempt at reggae proving that sometimes a simple rhythm can be the hardest to play.