Widely acknowledged as one of the most important and influential pianist/composers in jazz today, Cedar Walton's Underground Memoirs is only this master's fourth solitary outing (the first since 1992's memorable Live At Maybeck Recital Hall). A singular stylist with an exuberantly bluesy, yet harmonically advanced approach, Walton's sound is instantly recognizable in the context of a group, but here, alone at the piano, he plays in an exceptionally introspective manner where his identity is not as quickly revealed.
Walton combines his uniquely personal phraseology, with surprising variations in tempo and dynamics, to offer new perspectives on the familiar compositions he's chosen: selections from the Miles, Duke, Nat King Cole and Great American Songbooks, as well as the beautiful original title track. The pianist approaches the material with subtlety, sophistication and sensitivity, leaning more towards Ellingtonian elegance than Tatum-esque ornamentation, making this his most romantic disc to date. There is an honest intimacy to the music, the feeling of one man at home with his piano or, at times, more specifically, Walton himself, sitting in Bradley's, playing Paul Desmond's old Baldwin into the wee hours.
On the opening "Milestones (the first version, not the later, more popular title track of the classic Miles record), Walton approaches the music, particularly the bridge, with reflective cautiousness. On "Lost Paradise, he's settled in. His overture to "Someday My Prince Will Come is a superb introduction to the waltzing melody, and his rhythmic interpretation of "Con Alma is delightfully original. Renditions of the standards "Skylark, "Every Time We Say Goodbye, "Green Dolphin Street and "I Want To Talk About You demonstrate a clear mastery of the idiom, just as his reading of "Sophisticated Lady displays an analogous ability as an interpreter of Ellingtonia. The lyrical melancholic "Underground Memoirs proves Walton to be a composer of melodies worthy of sharing company with the other classics on this truly excellent effort.
Milestones; Lost April; Someday My Prince Will Come; Con Alma; Skylark; Everytime We Say Goodbye; On Green Dolphin Street; Underground Memoirs; Sophisticated Lady;I Want to Talk About You.