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Before appraising the music on saxophonist Donald Walden's new album, Focus, we should first consider the "truth in advertising" issue. Webster's defines an orchestra as "a group of instrumentalists including especially string players [emphasis mine] organized to perform ensemble music." Walden's "orchestra" has no strings attached, and in fact is actually an octet. That's correct, a leader and seven sidemen "organized to perform ensemble music." So caveat emptor. (In other words, don't be misled by the label; an orchestra it ain't.)
Aside from that inaccuracy, Focus is a generally admirable session wherein Walden and his colleagues perform in concert the music of legendary bop pianist Tadd Dameron, which encompasses a number of the most notable melodies in the annals of jazz. It's always a pleasure to hear again such classics of the idiom as "Half Nelson," "Lady Bird," "If You Could See Me Now," "The Scene Is Clean" and "Our Delight," capably interpreted by musicians from a hotbed of jazz, and especially bop, that has served as a breeding ground for so many remarkable players over the years.
Walden is an articulate soloist, as are the other front-liners, each of whom is given a number of chances to shine, and the rhythm section, comprised of pianist Kenn Cox, bassist Rodney Whitaker and drummer Bert Myrick, is sharp and supple. Walden is especially persuasive on "If You Could See Me Now," "Double Talk" and "Our Delight."
Dameron, whose career was crippled by drug use and who died in 1965, a month after his forty-eighth birthday, would no doubt be pleased to know that his music lives on, and to hear it performed so agreeably by a new generation of musicians. If you overlooked Dameron the first time around, Focus presents a splendid introduction his music, which remains uncommonly fresh and relevant after the passage of more than half a century.
Track Listing: Boperation; The Tadd Walk; Focus; Half Nelson / Lady Bird; If You Could See Me Now; Mating Call; Double Talk; A Bebop Carol; The Scene Is Clean; Our Delight (76:27).
I love jazz because with it I found my true voice. I have always sung since I was a very small child in school and church. And there have been many genre that I have enjoyed including spiritual, folk, country, latin, soca and pop
I love jazz because with it I found my true voice. I have always sung since I was a very small child in school and church. And there have been many genre that I have enjoyed including spiritual, folk, country, latin, soca and pop. But nothing has touched my artistic sensiblities like JAZZ! Two years ago I moved to Sarasota, FL where I renewed my focus on my singing career and I was so impressed with the quality, quantity and generousity of talented jazz musicains in the Suncoast area. I soon partnered with piano legend Billy Marcus and his trio with Don Mopsick and Stephen Bucholtz. What a blast working with these guys and having them back me up on my first jaz album, Here's To You... which was just released on October 1st. I can't wait to see where the coming year brings me! Check out syniacarrolljazz.com