Jazz Improv NY May 2009
Reviewed by Dan Bilawsky
While the second set at the Iridium, on this cool April evening, didn’t start right on time, the music more than made up for this little set back. Once these men were on the bandstand they wasted no time and Cedar Walton announced the first tune, appropriately titled “Cedar’s Blues.” While things seemed tentative at first, the music really loosened up once Javon Jackson let loose with some fine saxophone soloing. Walton threw in a nice chromatic line and created some rhythmic tension during his piano solo and Buster Williams showed great dexterity during his solo spot. Williams can create a sustained note like few others and he can also play loose and flowing when he chooses. Jimmy Cobb had some fun trading twelves with Walton and Jackson and he took an extended solo before the whole band jumped back in to finish things off.
“Holy Land” began with a solo piano introduction and Walton mixed flurries of notes with more measured statements. Buster Williams took the longest solo on this tune and when the rest of the band returned Cobb traded twelve bar solos again with Walton and Jackson. The quartet slowed things down with “Old Folks,” featuring solos from Jackson, Walton and Williams and a closing cadenza from Jackson that could melt your heart. Things really started to cook when the band launched into “Sixth Avenue,” which features a “Sidewinder”-meets-Samba groove that moves into a swing feel at times. Jackson was the dominant voice on the head of this tune. Following a sure-footed solo from Walton, Jackson unleashed some fiery saxophone soloing that really electrified the room. Javon Jackson is something to marvel at, with his impressive ideas, strong technique and a warm tone that is consistent across the whole range of the instrument and through the entire spectrum of dynamics.
Jimmy Cobb took the last solo here before the band brought the song to its conclusion. “Up Jumped Spring,” one of Freddie Hubbard’s best known tunes, was performed in tribute to the late trumpet genius and Jackson caressed the melody on this jazz waltz. Strong solos from Jackson, Walton and Williams added to the magic and this, along with the aforementioned“Sixth Avenue,” proved to be the high points of the set. The band chose to end the evening with some up-tempo swing and the solo action was fierce. Walton and Cobb seemed to enjoy trading solos and Cobb contributed his strongest drum soloing of the evening here, shortly before this dynamic set came to a close.