J.D. Walter

Clear Day

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In the 21st century, male jazz vocalists are a minority -- for every male jazz singer who comes along, there are countless female jazz singers. So when a young male jazz vocalist starts recording, you want to monitor his development closely. Influenced by Mark Murphy and Bob Dorough (among others), J.D. Walter was one of the young jazz-singing males who showed some promise in the late '90s and early 2000s. Clear Day, recorded in 2000, is an engaging post-bop date that Walter co-leads with soprano and tenor saxophonist/flutist Dave Liebman. Many straight-ahead jazz singers would not have the guts to work with Liebman, an adventurous post-bop/avant-garde soloist and composer who isn't afraid to be left of center. But Walter shows himself to be up for the challenge when he provides lyrics for two Liebman pieces ("Beyond the Line" and "Translucence") and scats his way through Liebman's hauntingly pensive "Mommie Eyes." Walter also writes lyrics for some melodies of his own, including the playful "Kiesha's Coy" and the clever "Here I Am There I Go." To Walter's credit, this CD doesn't inundate listeners with warhorses that they have heard time and time again. And even when Walter and Liebman (who are joined by pianist Jim Ridl, bassist Steve Varner, and drummer Ari Hoenig) do pick a warhorse, they bring something interesting to it. "On a Clear Day," for example, has been recorded countless times, but it has seldom received the type of abstract, mildly avant-garde treatment that Walter and Liebman go for. With its inside/outside approach, "On a Clear Day" is the session's most avant-garde offering. But overall, the CD is more inside than outside -- and that's fine for the highly flexible Liebman, who serves Walter well throughout this memorable album.

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