Cedar Walton Big Band Project - Day 3 Martha's Prize

Martha's Prize


Martha's Prize is one of Cedar's lesser known gems. Written (I assume) for his wife Martha. This tune was first recorded in 1996 on the record Composer on Astor Place records. The record features, Christian McBride, Victor Lewis, Roy Hargrove, Vincent Herring and Ralph Moore. Composer different from Roots features compositions that were recently composed by Walton  (Hindsight and Groundwork excepted). 

Martha's Prize has many pianistic features that are very fun to play. The intro/solo interlude bounces between two chords and features a bass lined played by piano and bass. Upon the first listen of the tune the listener can underestimate the subtle intricacies of the blowing changes. The A section harmonies begin with ii-V-I in the tonic followed by a tri-tone substitution to the IV chord before a walk up cadence starting on the ii chord. The bridge however is where the improviser is truly tested. It begins with a minor ii-V-I to the vi chord followed by a ii-V-I on to the bVI. While this harmonic movement is somewhat unusual, the true difficulty lies in the displacement of the harmonic rhythm. The rhythm is displace by two beats. The chords in the bridge are as follows. 

Dm7b5  G7b9/C-7 C#-7/F#7 Bmaj7/Bb-7  Eb7 /Abmaj7 G7b9/C-7  --/F#-7  B7/Emaj7   / 

The displacement of the harmonic rhythm seems fairly simple (at least from a conceptual standpoint) it proves to be quite difficult in how it interrupts the melodic flow of the improvisor's line. Cedar (of course) makes it sound easy!



Thus far I shared recordings of Walton playing his tunes. Since this tune hasn't been recorded as much as some of Walton's other tunes, I wanted to share an additional recording of this tune played by master pianist David Hazeltine. Cedar once asked David "What else do I know?"  It's only fitting one of Hazeltine's recordings of Cedar's work is included. David recorded I Remember Cedar in 2014 on Sharp Nine records with David Williams and Joe Farnsworth. This entire is record is perfect! Hazeltine's playing (as well as Williams and Farnsworth) is immaculate as well as swinging. One of the other aspects of Hazeltine's playing I like on his rendition of Martha's Prize is the orchestrated send off he gives himself at the 3:24 mark in the tune (which occurs over the entire A section for that chorus). The sendoff provides some continuity in the tune and is a springboard for Hazeltine to craft is perfect lines over the Walton composition. 

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