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Cedar Walton Sextet: The Art Blakey Legacy

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This fine tribute features Blakey alumni Philip Harper, Javon Jackson, Steve Turre and David Williams. The highest praise has to be divided among Walton, both for leading the date and great playing throughout, Lou Donaldson who sits in on two tracks, and especially Billy Higgins. It takes a lot of drummer to fill shoes as big as Blakey’s and a lot more to adapt one’s own style to such a situation without losing effectiveness. Daunted? You can almost hear Billy’s trademark grin.

Donaldson’s masterful solos are both thoughtful and humorous-he injects some perfectly ridiculous quotes-and Walton, Golson, Silver and Ellington/Tizol write pretty good tunes, but the success of the date depends on the youngsters (remember that Lou was one to Blakey?). Many players of this age group sound like they couldn’t pass blindfold tests of their own playing, but Blakey’s boys seem immune to that complaint. In this brief space I could say that Jackson evokes a young Clifford Jordan, or Harper a cross between Lee Morgan and Kenny Dorham, or that Turre in high gear is as smooth as J.J. but more forceful. It might mean more to say they can all play a real blues. Williams knows what the bass is supposed to do-it takes consciously listening to see how well he does it.

You know that this is a Messengers record all the way.