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Donald Walden: A Monk and Mingus Among Us

One thing the increasing number of artist-driven independent recordings has done is provide much needed exposure to resident jazz “heroes” of varying stripes. In Detroit one such artist is tenor saxman Donald Walden. Following on the heels of his then long overdue 1992 debut recording, the veteran this time addresses the deep wells of music left by Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus. No newcomer to this music, Walden once piloted a Detroit assemblage under the Monk Dynasty banner; and the Detroit Jazz Orchestra, featuring such then-greenhorns as bassists Rodney Whitaker and Marion Hayden (both of whom appear on this disc, along with such other fine players as trumpeter Marcus Belgrave and pianist Kenn Cox), and violinist Regina Carter, is another of his notable achievements.

Recently a jazz professor at Oberlin College, Walden is indeed deserving of your attention. His tenor sound is seasoned and ripe, rich with pathos, as capable of dancing with the demons as it is of delivering a ballad Ben Webster style. Additionally there are two Walden originals (one a tribute to another influence: Dizzy, With Love) and Geri Allen’s MOPE. Oh yeah, the Monk and Mingus pieces aren’t the usual suspects: he delivers with conviction and assured cunning on such lines as “Bye-Ya,” “Introspection,” “Peggy’s Blue Skylight,” and the ironically sunny and swinging “Cell Block F.”

Originally Published