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Cedar Walton: Three Sundays in the Seventies: “Live” at the Left Bank

The title doesn’t lie: These eight tracks were culled from three live sessions between 1971 and 1974 at Baltimore’s famous Left Bank. Joel Dorn, who knows a good sound when he hears it, managed to secure the rights to a mother lode of musical magic, promising to share more jazz history in the near future from those precious archives.

Common to all sessions is the basic trio of pianist Cedar Walton, bassists Sam Jones or Herbie Lewis and drummer Billy Higgins. Add tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan on and trumpeter Bill Hardman, then sprinkle a couple of Etta Jones vocals (one in which she offers an homage to Billie Holiday), and you have a mixture of eloquent, laid-back, small combo interaction and hard-driving bop explorations that are as good or better than anything produced since those Left Bank sabbaths three decades ago.

Versatility is Walton’s strong suit, whether exploring and extending the changes, executing impeccably clean runs or giving full, two-handed chordal statements with such clear textures. His joyful swing saves that odd Bacharach line “This Guy’s In Love With You.”

As for his writing, Walton provides a hard-edged, minor-mode vehicle for Hardman and Jordan with “I’m Not So Sure,” while displaying his supportive strength at comping.

Three Sundays in the Seventies is a most satisfying revisit of early Cedar.

Originally Published