The live NAIMA, recorded at Boomer's, is representative of a New York mid-'70s jazz-club gig. Cedar Walton's band mixes originals with cover tunes, conveying a vibe of bright harshness combined with propulsive NY energy. They're slightly hyper and on top of the beat.
The set opens with the bluesy Walton original "Holy Land." Walton pulls back on the beat during his solo. It's the most interesting, hard-swinging playing on the album, slightly disjointed and choppy. The influences of Errol Garner and Bill Evans emerge on Bacharach's "This Guy's in Love With You." Walton aims for clarity of line, fighting against a piano miked a little brightly. Sam Jones' driving bass is up front in the mix. Throughout, Cedar plays blues lines interwoven with ornate bop. But he brings pure melodicism to John Coltrane's "Naima." Here the band swings like a refreshing Brooklyn breeze. Cedar is at his sweetly singing best on the trio arrangement of the Cahn/Van Heusen tune "All the Way." Clifford Jordan's playing throughout is warm and almost woodsy, while Cedar and Jones' brightness offsets the mellow tonal quality of Louis Hayes' drumming.