March 2009

Eastern Rebellion - Mosaic
Nimbus Records NI2718
Format: CD
Originally released: 1992
Reissue released: 2009

by Bob Strain

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

On many otherwise fine CDs, the musical design extends only to alternation of tempo and mood. When artists reach further and consider the formal structure of an entire recording, a happier listening experience can follow. This Nimbus reissue from the MusicMasters catalog provides one such experience, its success due as much to its organization as to the performance and sound quality. That is little surprising, given that pianist Cedar Walton and drummer Billy Higgins anchored Eastern Rebellion through various incarnations with excellent hard-bop players. For this recording from 1992, they partnered with David Williams (bass) and Ralph Moore (tenor sax).

The CD is arranged around four solos, one by each performer. These meditations organize the recording into two groupings of five pieces, each with a solo at its center and conclusion, while the exuberantly boppish "Bittersweet" serves as a coda to the entire set. Walton solos first, in the delicate "I’ll Let You Know." Williams follows with "One for Kai," and Higgins is next with "Shoulders." Moore concludes with Guy Wood’s "My One and Only Love" (inexplicably credited here to George Gershwin).

The playing is excellent throughout, from the first notes of Freddy Hubbard’s "Sunflower" to the last fleeting unison of "Bittersweet." The structure of this recording is rock solid, and the magic is in the details: the cymbal fade on "I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face," the major-seventh ending of "My One and Only Love"; the lush ensemble of "My Old Flame."

The sound is lean and clean, with piano that has good presence throughout its range. The bass seems a little subdued, but the sax and drums are crisp and clear.