Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Every spring, jazz fans in Cleveland can look forward to a stupefying array of festivities revolving around the Tri-C JazzFest, which happens to be America's premier educational jazz festival. Over the years, this has also meant that other jazz-related presentations have had the opportunity to ride the coattails of the festival and such was the case with two sets on a warm April evening at Night Town with the Cedar Walton Trio. I have some marked reservations about bringing in national acts and choosing to back them with a local rhythm section and one couldn’t help but wonder how much more fervor might have been generated had Walton brought in the mates from his most recent record, bassist David Williams and drummer Kenny Washington. Still, Cleveland mainstays Dave Morgan and Greg Bandy performed up to their usual high standards throughout the evening and Walton was obviously in good spirits despite his admitted lack of sleep the night before.
In some ways the first set provided an opportunity for this threesome to feel each other out musically. The standards that afforded the framework initially then gave way to some of Walton’s original for the late show. “Bolivia” and “Midnight Waltz” quickly reminded that Walton’s art is as much about his writing as his piano playing. During “Holy Land,” his wry sense of humor raised its head with a quote from “Flight of the Bumblebee.” Then, a lengthy jam on a few Thelonious Monk ditties provided conclusion to what was undoubtedly the stronger of the two sets.
Photo Credit: Chris Hovan