Be-bop pianist and composer David Hazeltine is one of the top ten pianists of what I like to call the “tweener generation”, those veteran musicians who have not yet made it to the elders bracket and are too well seasoned to be labeled “up n coming” or “young lions” because David had already made his impact in jazz and is held in high esteem by his contemporaries. Hazeltine is original from Milwaukee, WI, playing professionally since he was 13 years of age, he decided to pursue a career as a pianist so he enrolled at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music before relocating to New York City in 1980. It was none other than Chet Baker who suggested to David that he move after having him as his pianist on a gig at the Jazz Gallery in Milwaukee. Unlike most pianists, Hazeltine was more influenced by saxophonists, Charlie Parker and Sonny Rollins being his biggest inspirations. After arriving to New York David worked with many greats, Jon Hendricks, Sonny Stitt, Lou Donaldson, Eddie Harris and many others. David’s biggest piano influences were Bud Powell and the subject of his new tribute recording, Cedar Walton.
David’s first encounter with Cedar Walton was shortly after moving to NYC in 1982, however it wasn’t until 1994 after seeing Walton play numerous times that they struck up a friendship that endured until Cedar passed away in August of 2013. Mr. Hazeltine considers Cedar Walton to have been “without a doubt, one of our greatest and most distinctive pianists and composers. His style of playing epitomizes, now and forever, elegance and perfection in jazz.” Cedar Walton was born in Dallas, Texas, his mom was a pianist who early on encouraged Cedar to follow in her footsteps but to also obtain an education. Walton attended and graduated from the University of Colorado-Denver. At D. U. he studied composition and music education. While enrolled at D.U. Cedar would gig at many jazz clubs in the Denver area, in particular in the 5 Points district where he served as house pianist for Lil’s, the after-hours club across the street from KUVO. For I Remember Cedar on the Sharp Nine Records labels, David Hazeltine is accompanied by David Williams-bass and Joe Farnsworth-drums. Of the 10 selections on the CD, nine are Cedar Walton compositions played exquisitely by David, the only song not written by Walton is Over the Rainbow which when Hazeltine and his wife were seeing Cedar play at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola in NY was performed and dedicated to them. This recording by David Hazeltine in honor of his close friend and fellow pianists, Cedar Walton lives up to the motto of Sharp Nine Records: “…straight ahead and in the pocket.”
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