By Bobby Reed | Published March 2017
Bandleader Ben Markley’s latest project is a labor of love, shining a spotlight on the compositions of pianist Cedar Walton (1934–2013). Markley, an assistant professor of jazz piano at the University of Wyoming, recruited fellow UW faculty members as well as some excellent Denver-area musicians for this big band disc, Clockwise: The Music Of Cedar Walton. All 10 songs here were composed by Walton and arranged by Markley, and the album features the exquisite trumpeter Terell Stafford, whose clarion tone and sturdy sense of swing can enliven any setting. Markley assembled a 16-piece big band (with guest guitarist Steve Kovalcheck on two tracks) for these sessions, and a couple of the tunes evoke the rich romanticism of the Swing Era. But whether the band is delivering a powerful strut with Latin rhythms, as it does on “Fiesta Español,” or offering a more mellow mood, as it does on “Hindsight,” the overall vibe here is one of toe-tapping celebration. This is addictive music that will make you want to grab a partner and hit the dance floor.