Walter Norris, piano player? Just help me now, oh yes, that pianist on Ornette Coleman's first album. Right – a man with a colorful career, to put it mildly. Early Fifties in Houston, with legendary alto player Jimmy Ford, gigs and records on the West Coast with a.o. Frank Rosolino and Herb Geller, seven years at the Playboy Club New York, two years with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band, Scandinavia, Radio Berlin, working with wonder bassist Aladar Pege, teaching, you name it. And he remained well under the radar.
During one of his frequent stays in NY he recorded this at times hallucinating album for Famous Door- the GHB Foundation has reissued it, complete with a half hour of alternate takes. In the title tune, Stepping on Cracks, Norris imagines a child that, of its own free will, can only step on the cracks in the sidewalk. It runs and jumps with uneven intervals, stumbling, stopping and almost falling. When the pianist turns the perspective from the child to the observer there is a reflective lyrical moment and in this it becomes real piano jazz – Norris is in the territory occupied by Bill Evans and Paul Bley. He gets the piano to do exactly what he wants, whatever he thinks of. And he ranges from one atmosphere to another like tossing a coin.
Without shorting Ronnie Bedford (he beats a remarkably melodic fast solo in Giant Steps) it's bassist George Mraz who deserves the limelight. He has a clear and sharp sound and likes to stay in the high register – he sometimes sounds like a cross between a guitar and ‘cello. In Falling in Love With Love he enthusiastically lets the notes slip and deform. Nice to have the third take of Cherokee – those subtle flageolets of Mraz behind the exposition of the theme hit your ears like bubbles.
~ Eddie Determeyer | Jazz Doctor (Netherlands)