CEDAR WALTON QUARTET WITH JAVON JACKSON
Ever since his stint with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in the early 60s--in the storied incarnation that also starred trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and saxist Wayne Shorter--pianist Cedar Walton has been a jazz musician's jazz musician, captivating his colleagues with translucent solos, supple, delicately colored accompaniment, and anthemic compositions like "Holy Land," "Bolivia," and "Mosaic." But more than that, Walton's a pianist's pianist: fellow keyboardists, dissecting his technique, walk away shaking their heads at the subtle solutions he's found to technical problems most people don't even know exist. He's also something of a sideman's sideman, a musician who sounds best when he's not in charge: on two previous Chicago gigs, both of them trios, his own playing seemed to command only desultory attention from him, as if his mind kept wandering off his solos. But Walton shouldn't have that problem at this week's engagement, because although he leads the band, he shares the front line with tenor saxist Javon Jackson, who provides the lead voice. They've worked together recently, on a 1998 tribute to Blakey called Bambino (Evidence), and engaging Jackson with his spicy and propulsive comp work promises to bring out Walton's best. It should also keep him on his toes, since the saxist has a reputation for being inconsistent--fortunately, Jackson's just-released album, an organ-combo date called Pleasant Valley (Blue Note), shows a relatively steady player. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.