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The Cat Walk (1961)

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Donald Byrd

Trumpeter Donald Byrd and baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams worked together on several recordings between 1958 and 1961, and The Cat Walk (released on LP in 1962) is among the best. A quintet setting, with pianist Duke Pearson (another longtime Byrd collaborator), bassist Laymon Jackson, and a lively Philly Joe Jones on drums joining the front line of Byrd and Adams, the sessions for The Cat Walk benefited from the writing and arrangement skills of Pearson, who contributes three compositions here, the impressive opener "Say You're Mine," "Duke's Mixture," and "Hello Bright Sunflower," which borrows its melodic structure from the opening bars of "Lullaby of Broadway" and features Byrd using a muted trumpet. Byrd contributed the title track, which attempts to capture the coiled, taut, but somehow still relaxed and assured gait of a tomcat, thanks in no small part to Jones' inspired drumming which hits the mark with stops and turns and smooth run-outs that are indeed very feline in nature. Byrd's playing throughout is typically sleek and lyrical, and Adams' sturdy, husky baritone sound is the perfect counterbalance, making The Cat Walk an essential Byrd purchase. ~ Steve Leggett