Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cedar Walton

“If you must put Cedar in a bag [style], then he is a hard-bopper. How could he be anything else after working for so many years with Art Blakey who instilled into all his sidemen the importance of the beat? But this is not to suggest Cedar lacks subtlety, wit or sensitivity. However, when certain grooves are required then the creative Mr. Walton is just the pianist to find them. He learned all about the blues back there in Dallas, but those skills aside he is a most gifted interpreter of ballads and places much emphasis on great original tunes from jazz repertory.”
- Mark Gardner

“Cedar appeals to the side of my personality that needs things to be precise and exact. Everything is crystal clear, well thought through, delivered with the highest degree of musical intention— in terms of phrasing, articulation, re-harmonizing. You can expect certain things from him on the highest level, and he is going to give them to you."
- David Hazeltine, Jazz pianist

“The excitement of fresh ideas laid out against a familiar terrain, the excitement of surprise, is the nature of Cedar Walton’s playing. …I think we are beginning to realize how precious are musicians like Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, Kenny Barron and Cedar Walton who have found their own widely ranging paths. As pianists, they may not be innovators, but they are originals because they have mastered certain techniques for the expression of their own feelings and fancies.”
- Gary Giddins

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

I like Jazz pianists who play in a melodic, graceful and light manner in the style of Tommy Flanagan and Hank Jones. Jimmy Rowles, also comes to mind as someone who plays in this vein as does Cedar Walton.

I could listen to these guys play for hours and quite literally have.

Lately, I’ve been absorbed in the music of pianist Cedar Walton

Because his lilting and lyrical style makes such effective use of evenly articulated, eight-note phrasing, Cedar's solos are very easy to hear; it’s almost like he enunciates the music. Everything he plays is so clearly spaced that it falls easily on the ears.

He’s also never far away from a touch of the blues and funk.

Cedar rides the time so well. He’s a drummer’s delight, always swinging; you just lay it down back there and try to stay out of the way.

The first time I remember hearing him play was on a recording by J.J. Johnson’s sextet which included trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan.

Shortly afterwards, Cedar [and Freddie] joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and I was able to "catch" Cedar in person when Art’s group came out to the Left Coast in 1962 to play the Renaissance on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, CA.

To give Freddie and Curtis Fuller [trombone] a chance to rest their “chops” - in this case, brass player term for “lips” – each night, Art would feature Cedar in a trio version of That Old Feeling.

We’ve used Cedar’s performance of the tune from the Three Blind Mice album as the audio track for the following video tribute to him. The album was recorded in performance during the Messengers’ 1962 two-week stint at the Club Renaissance.