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Renee Rosnes Remembers Cedar Walton

1.17.34 – 8.19.13

Cedar Walton Quartet, - Art of Jazz Series, Albright - Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, February 28, 2010
Cedar Walton

Cedar Walton was the kind of person who made you feel good just being in his presence. He had a brilliant mind, he was unpretentious and he was very funny. It has often been expressed that he was a musician’s musician, and history will also show that he was one of the most swinging, original and influential pianists of all time. Like the man himself, Cedar’s music was full of personality. His playing had an earthiness and a bell-like clarity that were unmistakably his. Even on his initial recordings as a sideman, he had already cultivated a complete language and approach all his own.

The same could be said of his arranging. Whether it was a song by Strayhorn, Monk, Arlen or Bacharach, Cedar instinctively put his signature on it with a few skillful twists of the harmony and rhythm. Suddenly, the piece became “Cedarized,” and the arrangement was often one that would stick in your mind. An early example would be his arrangement of “That Old Feeling,” from Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers’ 1962 recording 3 Blind Mice. As a composer, he also had an enormous melodic gift. He composed more than 100 pieces, and his tunes such as “Firm Roots,” “Bolivia,” “Holy Land” and “Ugetsu” will forever remain classics of the jazz canon.

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