Walter Davis, Jr.

Scorpio Rising

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Near the end of his life, Walter Davis, Jr. was starting to get the recognition he long deserved. But this Steeplechase CD turned out to be his swan song, as he died the following year. Accompanied by bassist Santi Debriano and drummer Ralph Peterson, the pianist concentrates primarily on his provocative original works. "Backgammon" initially signals a bit of gospel influence before evolving into a solid but innovative hard bop vehicle, featuring solid solos by all three musicians. "400 Years Ago Tomorrow" also throws a curve with an initial Caribbean influence before taking flight into a furious setting. His most famous composition, "Scorpio Rising," is not just a rehash of earlier recordings but a blistering performance complemented by his rhythm section's intuitive playing. The standards are also worthy of praise. His spacious interpretation of "Skylark" and funky introduction to "Just One of Those Things" (before returning to his hard bop roots with Peterson's crisp brushwork) prove very refreshing. Two bonus tracks were added to the CD reissue, adding to its already considerable value.

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