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Seasoned is an apt term for Cedar Walton who, at 72, continues to dazzle, refresh and satisfy with his keyboard artistry. Among several of his compositions included in Seasoned Wood, "Clockwise" is a bit of unusual waltz-time magic from which gradations of application spill from his keyboard, chiseled and burnished, as drummer Al Foster lends dazzling accompaniment. Their interaction is typical of Walton with this group, in which, as with the best bandleaders, he surrounds himself with stalwarts who shine brightly while at the same time creating a well-integrated ensemble.
His savvy is hardly surprising after all the decades he has spent with the likes of Milt Jackson, Art Blakey, Clifford Jordan and his earlier groups including Eastern Rebellion and the Timeless All-Stars. On Walton's "When Love Is New," Jeremy Pelt's flugelhorn provides a haunting counterpoint to the leader's crisp ruminations that evokes echoes of Miles David in its totally engaging unsentimental poignancy. A Jimmy Heath beauty, "Longevity," finds Walton's backing of alto saxophonist Vincent Herring and Pelt's down-front solos to be as bracing as it is spare.
Among the older classics included is Gershwin's "The Man I Love." Here the group swings so mightily the sound is simply massive. The whole becomes much more than the parts, notable for the white heat blowing of Herring, with whom Walton has collaborated for over 15 years. Here and throughout the session is Walton's hard-driving delicacy, mixing bop, brilliant phrasing, harmonic variety and more into his totally distinctive and evergreen style.
Track Listing: The Man I Love; Clockwise; Longravity; When Love Is New; Hindsight; A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square; Plexus; John's Blues.
Personnel: Cedar Walton: piano; Peter Washington: bass; Al Foster: drums; Vincent Herring: alto and tenor saxophone; Jeremy Pelt: trumpet, flugelhorn.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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