Pianist Cedar Walton was born on this day in Dallas, Texas, in 1934. A member of Art Blakey’s sextet in the 1960s, Walton was a leading voice in the development of hard-bop piano, possessed of a style that welded meticulous technical execution to an exuberant sense of swing. He was also among the most innovative and open-eared players in jazz, and as the genre transitioned into its electric and fusion periods, he warmly extended his arms to embrace new sounds.
This take on the classic Walton composition “Martha’s Prize” comes from his final studio album, The Bouncer, which was recorded in 2011, just two years before his death. More than just a swan song, it’s an illustrious showcase of the pianist’s wide-ranging and ever-evolving style — with bebop flourishes, blues refrains and R&B motifs all rubbing shoulders in the pocket of Walton’s leisurely dialed-in groove.
Feature photo: Cedar Walton (Courtesy the artist)