Reference: FSRCD 1658
Bar code: 8427328616584
Walter Benton (1930-2000) was a Los Angeles tenor saxophonist who came to prominence in 1954 when he recorded with the Clifford Brown All Stars. From that point on, except for few jazz dates, he worked mainly in Latin bands he was a member of Perez Prados orchestra between 1955 and 1957. After that he returned to L.A. until 1960, when he moved to New York and joined Max Roachs group.
This album, his only date as a leader, was recorded that same year. A successful, unaffected blowing session, it demonstrated that he had reached full maturity as a player, with a style influenced by Charlie Parker, but owing a debt to an earlier lineage from Coleman Hawkins, a trait especially evident in his sound. Playing with typical fluency, drive and imagination, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard contributes much to the success of the album, as does pianist Wynton Kelly, an impeccable combination of soul and taste as part of one of the stellar rhythm sections of the era, with bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb completing the Miles Davis quintets famed engine room. The perfect rhythm section does not suffer when Tootie Heath replaces Cobb on three performances. Walter Benton went back to Los Angeles in 1961, but sadly did not do any more albums like this.
"Walter Benton, who lived till the age of 70, never won any DownBeat Critics (or Readers) Polls. But, for those of us who know his work, he was one of the nicest things to happen in jazz around this time. A West Coaster, first heard on a Kenny Clarke Savoy date and, a year later, a Clifford Brown All-Stars session in 1954, he spent several years in Perez Prados acclaimed Latin band before settling in New York in 1960.
Musicians obviously recognised his talents because he become a member of Max Roachs group and appeared on Maxs most politically slanted albums. He also recorded several tunes with Eric Dolphy and was quite a regular on critic Nat Hentoffs Candid label sessions.
This Jazzland album was sadly his own album as a leader, but its thoroughly enjoyable with the two horns backed by one of the most relaxed swinging rhythm sections you could wish for absolutely sublime. Hubbard plays beautifully on the date, mainly in middle and lower registers, reflecting the relaxation of the rhythm team. As for Benton, producer Orrin Keepnews compares him to one of his tutors, Lucky Thompson. Personally, I hear more mid-50s, Miles period Rollins. He also writes excellent tunes. His ballad playing (Iris and Lover Man) is outstanding and he certainly has the chops to charge through up-tempo familiar changes (Night Movement and Azil), but the best by far is the, again, Rollins-ish Walters Alter with an absolutely marvellous tenor solo. A track Id take to a desert island without hesitation."
Tony Hall -Jazzwise (August, 2012)
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