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Few would debate pianist Cedar Walton's significance in jazz. With this release, the artist continues to utilize the efforts of alto saxophonist Vincent Herring and bassist David Williams, while Kenny Washington inherits the chair once held by the late drummer Billy Higgins. Therefore, as one might surmise, Walton's eloquence and artisanship is once again prominently exhibited on his latest group led effort.
On the opener and title piece, "Promise Land," the quartet bases its soulful vibe upon Herring's unruffled phraseology and memorably melodic hook. Moreover, Herring's lilting flute passages during the samba tinged "N.P.S" perpetuates a gala outlook, amid Walton's beautifully constructed solos and effective comping. Moderate swing vamps prevail throughout, as the band often conjures up remembrances of the 60's West Coast jazz scene, due to Herring's breezy passages and the leader's fluent mode of execution.
Walton demonstrates his soft touch and articulately executed lyricism on the standard "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," while Herring pours his soul into the grand scheme of things via his clear toned lines and compassionate interpretation of the main theme. Walton's joyous musical spirit is candidly articulated on The Promise Land.
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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