Cedar Walton has a new release, The Bouncer (High Note) that fans of hard bop and modern jazz piano will find of interest. Walton has had an impressive career starting with his days with J.J. Johnson and Art Blakey, than the numerous sessions with bassist David Williams and the late drummer, Billy Higgins. Whether leading his own sessions or backing the likes of the late Clifford Jordan or Dexter Gordon he was predictable in the sense that one would expect rhythmically swinging, solid and fresh melodic playing and music. On this date he is joined by Williams and drummer Willie Jones III with Vincent Herring on saxophones and flute on five of the eight selections, Steve Turre on trombone for two and Ray Mantilla on percussion for one.
The opening title track is a melodic Walton original based on its tempo with Walton, Herring and Turre each taking solos that establish a lively feel. J.J. Johnson’s Lament is the first time Walton has recorded this with only a trio, and his clean, relaxed touch helps establish the mood before we are engaged with his lengthy solo. With Herring featured on tenor, Walton provides another lively swinger, Bell For Bags, followed by a lovely waltz, Halo, that showcases Herring woody tone on flute. Underground Memoirs is a sextet performance with Turre, Mantilla and Herring on board for a bossa nova tinged rendition of this somber composition with Turre featured prominently here. Drummer Jones is featured on the trio swinger, Willie’s Groove, with Williams also prominent. Williams composed Got To Get To The Island, a driving number with herring in a bluesy mood before the leader’s solo over bassist Williams firm bass lines and Jones’ rock solid groove.
Another trio number, Martha’s Prize, is another lively and youthful sounding performance that closes The Bouncer in a lively mode. While Cedar Walton may be nearing eighty, but on this recording he plays with a vigor with equally engaged players for a recording that is quite striking.
This review was originally drafted for Jazz & Blues Report and my review copy was sent to me by them. The review appeared in the February 2012 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 340). Here is a video of Cedar, David Willaims and Jimmy Cobb.