Cedar Walton, a pianist who distinguished himself as both an accompanist and a soloist, and who wrote some of the most enduring compositions in modern jazz while a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the early 1960s, died on Monday at his home in Brooklyn. He was 79. His death followed a brief illness, his manager, Jean-Pierre Leduc, said. (NYTimes, 8-20-13)
“Walton grew up in Dallas, Texas. His mother was an aspiring concert pianist, and was Walton’s initial teacher. She also took him to jazz performances around Dallas. Walton cited Nat King Cole, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Art Tatum as his major influences on piano.
Walton was tempted by the promise of New York City through his associations with the likes of John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, and Richie Powell, whom he met at various after-hours sessions around the city of Denver, Colorado. In 1955, he decided to leave school and drove with a friend to New York City. He quickly got recognition from Johnny Garry, who ran Birdland at that time.
Walton was drafted into the U.S. Army, and stationed in Germany, cutting short his rising status in the after-hours scene. While in the Army, he played with musicians Leo Wright, Don Ellis, and Eddie Harris. Upon his discharge after two years, Walton picked up where he left off, playing as a sideman with Kenny Dorham and J. J. Johnson, and with Gigi Gryce. Joining the Jazztet, led by Benny Golson and Art Farmer, Walton played with this group from 1958 to 1961. In April 1959, he recorded an alternate take of “Giant Steps” with John Coltrane, though he did not solo.
In the early 1960s, Walton joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers as a pianist-arranger for three years (on the same day as Freddie Hubbard), where he played with Wayne Shorter and Hubbard. In this group, he demonstrated a keen sense of arranging in originals such as “Ugetsu” and “Mosaic”. He left the Messengers in 1964 and by the late 1960s was part of the house rhythm section at Prestige Records, where in addition to releasing his own recordings, he recorded with Sonny Criss, Pat Martino, Eric Kloss, and Charles McPherson. For a year, he served as Abbey Lincoln’s accompanist, and recorded with Lee Morgan from 1966 to 1968. During the mid-1970s, he led the funk group Mobius.
Many of his compositions have been adopted as jazz standards, including “Firm Roots”, “Bolivia” and “Cedar’s Blues”. “Bolivia” is perhaps Walton’s best known composition, while one of his oldest is “Fantasy in D”, recorded under the title “Ugetsu” by Art Blakey in 1963.
In January 2010, he was inducted as a member of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters.” (wikipedia)
In february this year he played in jazzclub Bimhuis in Amsterdam, in the same week Curtis Fuller gave a concert at the same place. I only visited the Fuller concert. It’s a pity. Happily there was a visitor who recorded (a part of) the concert.
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Cedar Walton at the Bimhuis, 2-14-2013: