A few words from the Press on Jazz Pianist and Composer Nancy Walker
Len Bukowski, CODA Magazine
“Nancy Walker extends an invitation to the listener to enter her very unique world of pianistic journeys. Hers is a joyous leaping loping stomping approach to the keyboard that harkens to the era of a strong left hand. There are many influences swirling in her music; there is also this strong sense of self, a definite presence of Nancy Walker as a musical entity.”
John Kelman, All About Jazz
“Harmonically she’s influenced by the usual suspects-Evans, Hancock, Jarrett, etc.-but her delicate touch and denser harmonic constructs brings to mind British pianist John Taylor as well…Walker’s music is easy on the ears, but don’t mistake that for lacking in interest or challenge, because she masks an advanced harmonic concept within an accessible veneer.”
Stuart Broomer, Toronto Life Magazine
“A gifted pianist and composer, Nancy Walker is possessed of a lyricism that can suggest lapping water and bright skies, and a contrasting rhythmic drive. A former student of Fred Hersch, she builds on a tradition of romantic jazz piano that has deep roots in the harmonic innovations of Bill Evans.”
Irwin Block, Montreal Gazette
“ **** Toronto pianist Nancy Walker, winner of last year’s Grand Prix de Jazz General Motors at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, has produced a first-rate recording of original music that should help propel her performing career. Walker has a percussive style, which gives her music drive and intensity. Her vision is replete with fresh ideas and a positive outlook.”
Ted O’Reilly, The Whole Note Magazine
“She’s a commanding presence at the piano. Her solos are strong and personal, and she’s a wonderful accompanist.”
Geoff Chapman, Toronto Star
“The album…should vault Walker into Toronto’s elite circles.”
Hal Hill, Performing Arts Magazine
“Every once in a while a new voice on the piano jumps out at you and says “Hey listen to what I have to say”. Such is the case here with pianist Walker who demonstrates her ability to offer new renditions of standards and display some keen compositional skills as well…..The interplay between this stellar trio is a pleasure to hear, constantly feeding off each other, and producing some surprises that make you want to go back to check out what you may have missed first time around. Nancy Walker has a lot to say, all of it joyful.”
Geoff Chapman, Toronto Star
“Just a few moments spent listening to Nancy Walker’s band tells you why it won the Grand Prix de Jazz at last year’s Montreal Jazz festival.”
Peter Hum, Ottawa Citizen
“The Toronto pianist has been a consistent treat, a smart and cheery player teeming with piquant harmonies and flowing, well-phrased melodies…This disc is warm and welcoming, which is to say it has Walker’s personality stamped all over it.”
Roger Levesque, Edmonton Journal
“Toronto pianist Nancy Walker has led her trio with bassist Kieran Overs and drummer Barry Romberg for eight years now, so it was no surprise to witness a band that almost thinks as one when they hit the Yardbird Saturday.”
Lyle Rebbeck, Medicine Hat Jazz Festival
“Toronto pianist Nancy Walker continues to write some of the most interesting and sophisticated contemporary jazz in the country. Contemporary, yet firmly connected to the history of jazz and therefore accessible.”
John Kelman, All About Jazz (from his review of Geggie Trio + Donny McCaslin’s Across The Sky)
“As for Walker, her motif-driven solo on the propulsive “Or Not” is a highlight of the disc.”
Mark Miller, Globe and Mail
“There’s a flourish at the end of Flip-Flop on Nancy Walker’s debut CD that, taken out of context might have you thinking of someone like Don Pullen. In context, however, it’s…something perhaps closer, esthetically, to the work of someone like the young Ahmad Jamal…five of the nine tracks are finely wrought Walker originals.”
Reviews of New Hieroglyphics
John Kelman, Allaboutjazz
Amidst an overcrowded community, even the cream of the crop has difficulty getting heard beyond their own locales. A regular visitor to relatively nearby Ottawa, Toronto-based Nancy Walker is an Ottawa Jazz Festival regular as part of John Geggie’s trio at the late night jam sessions–also participating on the bassist’s recent Across the Sky (Plunge, 2010), an at times lyrical, other times incendiary modern mainstream date featuring better-known saxophonist Donny McCaslin. The pianist has been delivering albums under her own name roughly every three years since 1997, with the exception of the compelling When She Dreams (Justin Time, 2004), released a mere year after 2003′s Levitation (Self Produced, 2003).
New Hieroglyphics brings the trio back from Walker’s Need Another (Self Produced, 2007), but it’s not just guitarist Ted Quinlan, fleshing this date out to a quartet, that lights a serious fire. Walker’s always possessed greater diversity than her generally centrist music has suggested, occasionally entering more angular territory on Across the Sky and soaring, at times, with the energy of John Coltrane’s classic mid-’60s quartet. Here, the pianist demonstrates even broader stylistic interests, bolstered with unfailing aplomb by bassist Kieran Overs and drummer Ethan Ardelli, even as she dives into a burning pool of lava on the opening “Mehndi,” where her approach is anything but reminiscent of Coltrane’s pianist, McCoy Tyner. Instead, her touch is lighter and her Phrygian lines more sparsely populated, even as she moves towards greater density beneath Quinlan’s gritty solo, after peaking her own with a series of ascending chords and a brief, unexpected gospel tint.
Nor is it just Quinlan’s thick, gritty tone on tracks like the blues-tinged “Take You There” that gives New Hieroglyphics its edge; for the first time, Walker adds Fender Rhodes to the mix, and its chiming tone encourages her to traverse more ethereal planes on the brooding “Companion Moon,” doubling her grand piano for its gently expansive vibe. Meanwhile, Quinlan turns to steely acoustic guitar on a tune where intrinsic structure doesn’t confine the quartet’s interpretive stance, its consummate taste and astute, spacious interplay a touchstone for the entire set.
Walker sticks with Rhodes on the upbeat “Take You There,” her motivic solo driven as much by time as melody, with Overs and Ardelli busily pushing its visceral groove. A powerful mid-tempo pulse drives the harmonically altered “Intentional Blues,” while on the sweeter “Late Bloom,” Walker goes it alone, lyrically twisting and turning. The more oblique title track moves effortless along a sketch of a concept, a taste of Keith Jarrett’s American Quartet imbuing a relentlessly building piano solo, its flurries of ideas driven by Ardelli’s most flamboyant playing of the set, an energized ostinato driving a rare drum solo, as Walker again layers piano and Rhodes and the tune finally draws to a close, recapitulating its recondite opening conceit.
Demonstrating considerable growth since When She Dreams, the eclectic, esoteric and unfailingly accessible New Hieroglyphics finds the ever-intrepid Walker pushing through borders into dynamic new territory, even as she retains all the markers that have drawn people to her in the first place.
Geoff Chapman, The WholeNote Magazine
Nancy Walker has played enough piano to know how to keep listeners interested however hard she pushes the boundaries of familiarity. Her 11 original compositions on Nancy Walker – New Hieroglyphics (Indie NW 2011-01 www.nancywalkerjazz.com) are often fiercely inventive, while some amazingly seem ripe for dancing. The opening Mehndi pulses with life, drummer Ethan Ardelli permanently on fire, bass Kieran Overs a big-toned mainstay and guitarist Ted Quinlan always ready to wail or deliver strong counterpoint to the pianist’s delightful ideas, always confidently expressed – later he brings new levels of intensity to Federico. The title piece (and others) exploit elements of musical theory but you don’t need to drown in semantics to enjoy the off-kilter keyboard fancies plus a vigorous pulse. Imprint has bravura guitar and expansive imagination, Companion Moon has many memorable moments while with Take You There it’s back to the dance floor. A fine album well worth seeking.
Peter Hum, The Ottawa Citizen Jazzblog.ca
Over the years, Toronto pianist Nancy Walker has been a familiar and welcome presence in Ottawa, thanks to her steady gig in the TD Ottawa International Jazz Festival’s jam session house band. As a result, many Ottawa jazz fans are more than familiar with Walker’s poise at the piano, her versatility, her harmonic savvy and her melodies that blend lyricism and logic.
Her new CD, New Hieroglyphics, delivers what we’ve come to expect — and more. It seems to me that Walker, whose current studies have included lessons with Jason Moran and Myra Melford, is delving into more tense and intriguing musical material on her new disc. Moreover, New Hieroglyphics is front-loaded with more raucous, somewhat harder-edged fare such that the disc feels to me almost like progression from Walker’s more current, knottier areas of interest to more consonant, clearly upbeat pieces.
With the brash modal tune Mehndi, Walker and her band mates (guitarist Ted Quinlan, bassist Kieran Overs, drummer Ethan Ardelli) hit the ground rocking. While Walker may have put lyricism before aggression in the past, her new CD’s opening track flips that dichotomy. Walker’s surging, crunchy piano solo, Quinlan’s howling guitar expertly shadowed by Walker and Ardelli’s driving drums make this track especially forceful.
Late Bloom, a short solo piano piece, changes the pace. It’s probing and contemplative, but to my ears it hints at Walker’s growing embrace of sophisticated, less jazz-based musical materials — the title may well indicate as much. Perhaps one of Walker’s more recent muses is the Catalan composer Federico Mompou, much beloved by such discerning jazz pianists as Richie Beirach, Edward Simon, Bernardo Sassetti and Taylor Eigsti. At least so it would seem, given Walker’s piece Federico, which begins with a miniscule bit of material and grows into something grandiose. The title track, built from a nine-note tone row, is a boisterous tune with several stages. Following its theme, Quinlan builds his statement over ostinato accompaniment by Walker and Overs. For her part, Walker’s monumental solo over a churning background is one of the disc’s high-energy highlights. To boost the tune’s concluding phase, Walker overdubs some chorused Fender Rhodes — an addition to her disc’s sonic palette that reoccurs as the CD progresses.
The Great Hall, extends the electric piano overdubbing into what I think of as the disc’s second act. The Phrygian-mode extravaganza reminds me of some of the jams on Jack DeJohnette’s Music We Are CD. Companion Moon has a similar vibe, deploying the Rhodes for colour and Quinlan’s acoustic guitar for melody. In between those two tracks are Imprint, a contemporary, straight-eighths, odd-meter tune, and Beacon, a heartfelt bossa-style tune for Walker, Overs and Ardelli.
The disc’s three final tunes are its most traditional offerings. Take You There is a second-line groover that sounds positively happy-go-lucky compared to some of the disc’s earlier, darker fare. Intentional Blues brings out allusions to Thelonious Monk en route to fuill-bodied swinging… and Brave Heart is a gospel waltz that brings the CD to a grounded, celebratory conclusion.
The Sounds Advocate www.thesoundsadvocate.com
Canadian jazz pianist Nancy Walker’s latest release finds her adding more surprises to her already rich musical tapestry with New Hieroglyphics, which as of this writing, is exclusively available through her official website and via Bandcamp. There’s great interplay among the quartet presented here, even when faced with odd-metered time signatures or challenging melodies on several compositions. Imaginative soloing from both Walker and guitarist Ted Quinlan are constant highlights of these sessions, with able-bodied support from bassist Kieran Overs on bass (who also co-produced the set with Walker), and drummer Ethan Ardelli. Opening track “Mehndi” kicks off the set with a rolling groove, while Walker adds colorful chord shading to balance snarling guitar licks from Quinlan. “Federico” begins in a quiet, somber tone which builds in electrified crescendos before returning to simplicity. The album’s title tune begins a bit atonal at first, then shifts tempos in sudden, surprising measures. “The Great Hall” features Walker on both acoustic and electric pianos, while “Imprint” burns with syncopated intrigue. “Beacons” offers a change of pace in its stately phrasing, while “Companion Moon” brings about mystery in a subtle fashion. “Take You There” is a sunny Fender Rhodes-led shuffle, and “Intentional Blues” ushers in shades of Monk for a slightly off-kilter feel. “Brave Heart” closes the album in a soul-stirring, thematic way. Throughout the album, Nancy Walker’s playing is instinctual, strong and expressive, whether a given piece demands tenderness, or a full range of fleet-fingered techniques in order to wring out various emotions. New Hieroglyphics is a full assortment of ear-pleasing musical flavors, all served up with just the right blend of skill.