Thursday, October 19, 2017

Ben Markley Big Band: Clockwise

OA2 Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Clockwise

All jazz fans know pianist, composer and arranger Cedar Walton. He was born in 1934 and immersed in the scene at the same time as Art Tatum, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, but was best known for his association with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Many of Walton’s charts are legendary, and are staples in the books of name combos and big bands throughout the jazz world.

Every tune in this tribute album by Markley is a Walton original.

Markley is a pianist, educator, composer and arranger; he heads the big band featured in this release. He’s an active performer in the Denver area, and is director of jazz studies at the University of Wyoming. He also teaches applied jazz piano and improvisation. 

His group here is standard: five reeds, four trumpets — including the famed Terell Stafford — four trombones, and a rhythm section of piano, bass and drums. Two tracks also feature guitar. This tasty result has earned rave reviews, including four-and-a-half stars from Downbeat.

Walton’s compositions were always swingers at any tempo, and Markley maintains that level of excellence. As an added bonus, the chord structure and changes made possible by the use of full reed and brass sections makes “everything old, new again.” The artists have been given plenty of room for solos, and they make good use of every opportunity.

I hadn’t heard Stafford for awhile, and had forgotten what a groovin’ horn player he is.

It’s terrific to hear a truly excellent band swing like this one. Purists who yearn for those good ol’ days — and the wonderful groups that rocked us back then — will find that this album brings back some great memories, and satisfies the soul.

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