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Friday August 01, 2014
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Cedar Walton

 

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famed quintet took him all over the world and brought him to the attention of listeners and musicians alike. Having established his credentials, he quickly came into demand as a sideman and soon went out on his own. For more than three decades Walton has been one of the most original and consistent of the hard bop pianists, working with musicians of all generations, leading his own units, and recording almost forty albums under his own name.

While still true to its early bop roots, Walton's piano playing continues to evolve as he assimilates more progressive rhythms and harmonies in step with the times. He is a generous leader, who offers much solo space to others. When I last heard him in Toronto, he was obviously pleased with Dave Young's bass playing and offered him so much solo room that one would have thought that Walton was the sideman and not the leader.

Walton has a magnificent sense of form. Whether playing solo or leading a larger combo, he structures the music and avoids ordinary blowing sessions. His own improvisations are logically constructed with flowing lines, avoiding mere riffs and effects. This comes as no surprise, for Walton is not only a fabulous pianist but also one of the best composers in modern jazz. He established his writing credentials under Art Blakey with such classic tunes as "Ugetsu" and "Mosaic," and his "Bolivia" has become a standard.

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