There aren’t many many musicians still alive who were active during the golden era of hard bop, but pianist Cedar Walton is one of them. Though he doesn’t loom as large in the history of the music as, say, saxophonist Johnny Griffin, who died earlier this year, he remains a vibrant link to folks like Art Blakey, J.J. Johnson, and Art Farmer. At age 74 he’s still a model of consistency and good taste, playing impeccable, hard-swinging jazz as naturally as most folks draw breath.

Walton’s recent Seasoned Wood (HighNote) won’t ruffle any feathers, but his concise, graceful playing shows off every bit of his impressive rhythmic alacrity and harmonic sophistication. The recording also features top-notch backing musicians, including veteran drummer Al Foster and young-gun trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, on trio, quartet, and quintet tracks. This evening Walton opens a four-night stand at the Jazz Showcase; he’s joined by regular saxophonist Vincent Herring, bassist Tony Dumas, and Chicago drummer George Fludas.

Today’s playlist:

Johnny Alf, Rapaz de Bem (Sony/BMG, Brazil)
Claudio Rocchetti, Another Piece of Teenage Wildlife (Die Schachtel)
Sibylle Baier, Colour Green (Orange Twin)
George Strait, Troubadour (MCA)
H3FK, Nubiska Nätter (Caprice)