Monday, August 26, 2013

Cedar Walton (1934-2013), Major Pianist, Bandleader, and Composer


Cedar Walton was a master musician and composer whose elegant, dynamic, and deeply lyrical style on piano was one of the most widely influential and deeply admired of his extraordinary generation.  Walton was also a consummate composer who wrote many compositions in his own groups and for other ensembles that quickly became Jazz standards in the hardbop/postbop idiom of the 1950s and '60s.  To say he and his beautiful, disciplined playing will be sorely missed is a vast understatement...


Cedar Walton, Pianist and Composer, Dies at 79

August 20, 2013
New York Times

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.

Rachel Papo for The New York Times
Cedar Walton performing with his quartet in 2009.

His death followed a brief illness, his manager, Jean-Pierre Leduc, said.

Mr. Walton sat in with Charlie Parker, spent a year accompanying the singer Abbey Lincoln, and recorded with both John Coltrane and, much later, the saxophonist Joshua Redman. He led a series of successful small groups, including a trio and a quartet that both featured his longtime collaborator, the drummer Billy Higgins. Yet he probably remained best known for his early work with one of the most influential incarnations of the Jazz Messengers, the group that the drummer Art Blakey ran as a kind of postgraduate performance academy for rising jazz stars.

Mr. Walton joined the Jazz Messengers in 1961, on the same day as the trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. (Among the other members of the group at the time, was the tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter.) It was here that Mr. Walton established himself as a composer; over the years he would write a number of pieces that became jazz standards, including “Mosaic,” “Bolivia,” “Mode for Joe” and “Ugetsu,” also known as “Fantasy in D.”

Mr. Walton said his time with the Jazz Messengers helped him greatly as an accompanist, a role he often said he preferred to that of leader. Asked in a 2010 interview — conducted in conjunction with his being named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts — what was most important about providing accompaniment in an ensemble that thrives on improvisation, he said, “Total listening.”

Cedar Anthony Walton Jr. was born on Jan. 17, 1934, in Dallas. His mother, Ruth, played and sang popular songs at home. He was not initially interested in reading music, but he showed an early inclination to compose.

“Are you making up songs again?” his mother would call out.

He studied music composition at the University of Denver but later switched to music education. Instead of graduating he left in 1955 for New York, where he soon joined the local jazz scene.

Mr. Walton’s survivors include his wife, Martha Sammaciccia; three children from an earlier marriage, Carl, Rodney and Cedra; and a daughter from another relationship, Naisha.

In April 1959, after serving in the Army, Mr. Walton was sought out by John Coltrane to play on a rehearsal recording for what would become one of his landmark albums “Giant Steps.” Mr. Walton played on the technically daunting title song but declined to take a solo. He soon realized that had been a mistake.

“The song was too hard for me,” he said in a 2011 interview with JazzWax, Marc Myers’s Web site. “But you just didn’t do that. I was young.”

When the album was recorded, Mr. Walton was out of town and Tommy Flanagan played piano. Years later, the sessions with Mr. Walton were released as alternate tracks. By then, he had long since established himself as a forceful and elegant soloist. His years with Mr. Blakey helped.

“He had sort of a bombastic style, but he would leave little openings for you,” Mr. Walton said in the 2010 interview. “So you developed your radar when to get in. If you didn’t get in then, you wouldn’t be heard.”
AUGUST 26, 2013


Photograph by Jack Vartoogian/Getty
 Cedar Walton performing with his quartet in 2009.    
Bad news arrived last week while I was out of town—the death of the pianist and composer Cedar Walton, at the age of seventy-nine. His name has always been a watermark of quality, and of particular qualities, for any recording he’s taken part in, as leader or sideman. Walton had a blend of power and swing, modesty and complexity, hearty tradition and fervent innovation. He joined the drummer Art Blakey’s sextet in 1961 and, together with the trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and the tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter, made it, for the next three years, one of the best ensembles in jazz. Blakey’s sheer force was joined to a true group concept—his younger band members composed works of a brooding intensity that joined modern post-bop modality (as pioneered by Miles Davis) to a bluesy, R. & B.-based feeling. The band’s music emerged with a ripping progressive edge and an exultation in sheer dark heat that sounded like the streets and distinguished it from more transcendent, conceptual, or restrained versions of modern jazz. Instead, the trio seemed more linked to the new funk of James Brown and Motown.

Walton’s first recording with Blakey was a live set, from August, 1961, that came out as part of the second volume of recordings called, drolly, “Three Blind Mice” (an arrangement of which was played with surprisingly un-jokey fervor). This clip, from 1963, gives a clear sense of the band’s exhilarating level of intricate aggression—and also includes a long interlude, from the thirty-first through thirty-eighth minutes, devoted to Walton, who plays solo and in a trio with Blakey and the bassist Reggie Workman. Walton delivers a florid ballad that snaps into an irrepressible up-tempo bounce. At minute forty-six, he thrillingly pierces Blakey’s drum fury while adding another layer of tension to it.

I have a special love for hearing piano trios (i.e., with bass and drums), and, in later years, Walton made many recordings in that format. But in Walton’s case, there’s a particular joy in hearing him play behind horn soloists, as in the obscure 1967 recording by the trumpeter Donald (Blackjack) Byrd. On this tune, “Eldorado,” Walton sticks close to the rhythm of the melody but seems to be hearing inside the heads of the soloists (especially the tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley—I wish their interplay had gone on for several more choruses). In his own solo, he used the insistent rhythm to loosely tether freewheeling inspirations until he meshes gears in a sultry, straightforward blues jaunt.

In 1986, in this concert from Japan (seen in the above clip) with the alto saxophonist Jackie McLean and the trumpeter Woody Shaw, Walton, in his superb solo, does something similar: taking off from a bluesy strut, he breaks into an overflowingly melodic mode and touches base with swing before spinning out piquantly out-of-phase chords and teeming note-torrents.

Walton was as significant a composer as he was a performer. He played on the tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan’s quietly majestic, even modestly era-defining, 1973 recording “Glass Bead Games,” and contributed two compositions to the session—“Shoulders” and “Bridgework”—which are two of my all-time favorite jazz compositions, ones that exemplify their time and capture the essence of jazz moods while also posing an awesome challenge: to improvise on themes that are already perfect.

The very status of that great album (I’ve got the CD but fondly recall the double-LP from Strata-East, an exceptional, short-lived, artist-run record label) tells a remarkable and troubled story, of the glory and curse of “jazz” itself. Some musicians dislike that word (Ahmad Jamal distances himself from it, Nicholas Payton utterly repudiates it), but the underlying question is the range of musical styles that jazz implies. Walton’s latter-day music wouldn’t have been out of place in his performances from more than fifty years ago. The recording with Jordan—coming, as it did, at a moment when both the avant-garde and pop-tinged fusion were getting the bulk of attention (the former, from critics; the latter, from audiences)—is a summing-up of a post-bop manner that had already become traditional. This self-consciously historicist distillation, with compositions dedicated to elder greats, make a claim for that manner as newly yet definitively classical.

All art forms reach their point of crisis, regarding their own conventions and the acceptance of the public. The prospect of further progress depends on a self-conscious reassessment of the art’s history, and the open field of radical possibilities leads to a congealing of taste around earlier styles that arose in response to specific conditions that no longer exist. But the trends of an art form are one thing, the lives and experiences of artists another. Walton negotiated just such a divide with integrity and invention, which doubles his place in the music’s history.

Cedar Walton 

One of the most valued of all hard bop accompanists, Cedar Walton is a versatile pianist whose funky touch and cogent melodic sense have graced the ...

Cedar Walton Quartet - Naima pt 1

► 7:10
Nov 11, 2006 -
Also from a performance in 1976 at the Umbria Jazz Festival, John Coltrane's composition ...
Cedar Walton's "Bolivia"

► 12:41
Apr 27, 2012
1984 Milt Jackson, Ray Brown, Cedar Walton -5+6: Midnight Waltz / The Very Thought Of You
Cedar Walton

► 5:42
Nov 4, 2008 -
Cedar Walton Trio - - YouTube

► 3:25
Jul 18, 2012
Cedar Walton Trio Série Jazz dans la nuit series. Festival International de Jazz de Montréal 2012
Cedar Walton plays "Blue Monk"

► 2:54
Nov 11, 2006
From a performance in 1976 at the Umbria Jazz Festival,
Bobby Hutcherson & Cedar Walton Quartet

► 66:21
Nov 1, 2012 -
Bobby Hutcherson Cedar Walton David Williams Eddie Marshall San Javier Jazz Festival 2010.
Cedar Walton Trio with Billy Higgins & David Williams -

► 14:46
Sep 29, 2012 
► 7:09
Mar 1, 2013
One of the most celebrated Cedar Walton's compositions that is a real new jazz standard by Cedar Walton -"Bolivia" -
► 10:11
Nov 25, 2012
Cedar Walton Trio
Cedar Walton
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Background information:
Birth name    Cedar Anthony Walton, Jr.
Born    January 17, 1934
Dallas, Texas, United States
Died    August 19, 2013 (aged 79)
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Genres    Jazz
Occupations    Musician
Instruments    Piano

Cedar Anthony Walton, Junior (January 17, 1934 – August 19, 2013) was an American hard bop jazz pianist. He came to prominence as a member of drummer Art Blakey's band before establishing a long career as a bandleader and composer.


1 Biography
2 Discography
2.1 As leader
2.2 As sideman
3 References
4 External links


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.[1] He began emulating recordings of these artists from an early age. He attended the University of Denver as a composition major originally, but was encouraged to switch to a music education program targeted to set up a career in the local public school system. This switch later proved extremely useful since Walton learned to play and arrange for various instruments, a talent he would hone with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers.
Walton was tempted by the promise of New York City through his associations with 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.[2] 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.[2]

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.[3]
In January 2010, he was inducted as a member of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters.[4]
After a brief illness, Walton died on August 19, 2013, at his home in Brooklyn, New York at the age of 79.[5]
Discography[edit source]

As leader

1967: Cedar! (Prestige)
1968: Spectrum (Prestige)
1969: The Electric Boogaloo Song (Prestige)
1969: Soul Cycle (Prestige)
1972: Breakthrough! with Hank Mobley (Cobblestone)
1973: A Night At Boomers, Vol. 1 (Muse)
1973: A Night At Boomers, Vol. 2 (Muse)
1974: Firm Roots (Muse)
1974: Pit Inn (East Wind)
1975: Mobius (RCA)
1976: The Pentagon (East Wind)
1977: First Set (SteepleChase)
1977: Second Set (SteepleChase)
1977: Third Set (SteepleChase)
1978: Animation (Columbia)
1980: Soundscapes (Columbia)
1980: The Maestro (Muse)
1981: Piano Solos (Clean Cuts)
1982: Among Friends (Theresa Records)
1985: The Trio, Vol. 1 (Red)
1985: The Trio, Vol. 2 (Red)
1985: The Trio, Vol. 3 (Red)
1985: Cedar's Blues (Red)
1985: Bluesville Time (Criss Cross)
1986: Up Front (Timeless)
1986: Cedar Walton Plays (Delos)
1987: This Is For You, John (Timeless)
1992: Live at Maybeck (Concord Jazz)
1992: Manhattan Afternoon (Criss Cross)
1996: Composer (Astor Place)
1999: Roots (Astor Place)
2001: The Promise Land (Highnote Records)
2002: Latin Tinge (Highnote)
2005: Naima (Savoy Jazz)
2005: Midnight Waltz (Venus Records)
2005: Underground Memoirs (Highnote)
2006: One Flight Down (Highnote)
2008: Seasoned Wood (Highnote)
2009: Voices Deep Within (Highnote)
2010: Cedar Chest (Highnote)
2011: The Bouncer (Highnote)
With Eastern Rebellion
1975: Eastern Rebellion, Vol. 1 (Timeless Muse)
1977: Eastern Rebellion, Vol. 2 (Timeless Muse)
1990: Mosaic (Musicmasters)
1992: Simple Pleasure (Musicmasters)
1994: Just One of Those... Nights At The Village Vanguard (Musicmasters)
With Timeless All Stars
1982: It's Timelss (Timeless)
1983: Timeless Heart (Timeless)
1986: Essence (Delos)
1991: Time For The Timeless All Stars (Early Bird Records)
As sideman[edit source]
With Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt
God Bless Jug and Sonny (Prestige, 1973 [2001])
Left Bank Encores (Prestige, 1973 [2001])
With Art Blakey
Mosaic (Blue Note, 1961)
Three Blind Mice (Blue Note, 1962)
Free For All (Blue Note, 1964)
Kyoto (Riverside, 1964)
Indestructible (Blue Note, 1964)
Golden Boy (Colpix, 1964)
Buhaina (Prestige, 1973)
Anthenagin (Prestige, 1973)
With Donald Byrd
Slow Drag (Blue Note, 1967)
With Ornette Coleman
Broken Shadows (Columbia, 1972 [1982])
With John Coltrane
Giant Steps (Atlantic, 1959)
With Sonny Criss
Up, Up and Away (Prestige, 1967)
The Beat Goes On! (Prestige, 1968)
With Kenny Dorham and Cannonball Adderley
Blue Spring (Riverside, 1959)
With Teddy Edwards
It's All Right! (Prestige, 1967)
With Art Farmer and Benny Golson
Big City Sounds (Argo, 1960)
The Jazztet and John Lewis (Argo, 1961)
The Jazztet at Birdhouse (Argo, 1961)
With Curtis Fuller
Soul Trombone (Impulse!, 1961)
Smokin' (Mainstream, 1972)
With Benny Golson
Take a Number from 1 to 10 (Argo, 1961)
With Dexter Gordon
Tangerine (Prestige, 1972 [1975])
Generation (Prestige, 1972)
With Steve Grossman
Love is the Thing (Red Record, 1985)
With Eddie Harris
Cool Sax from Hollywood to Broadway (Columbia, 1964)
The In Sound (Atlantic, 1965)
Mean Greens (Atlantic, 1966)
The Tender Storm (Atlantic, 1966)
Excursions (Atlantic, 1966-73)
How Can You Live Like That? (Atlantic, 1976)
With Jimmy Heath
The Quota (Riverside, 1961)
Triple Threat (Riverside, 1962)
With Joe Henderson
Mode for Joe (Blue Note, 1966)
With Freddie Hubbard
Here To Stay (Blue Note, 1962, [1979])
With Bobby Hutcherson
Highway One (Columbia, 1978)
With Milt Jackson
Milt Jackson at the Museum of Modern Art (Limelight, 1965)
Born Free (Limelight, 1966)
Milt Jackson and the Hip String Quartet (Verve, 1968)
Goodbye (CTI, 1973)
Olinga (CTI, 1974)
With J. J. Johnson
J.J. Inc. (Columbia, 1961)
With Sam Jones
Seven Minds (East Wind Records, 1974)
With Clifford Jordan
Spellbound (Riverside, 1960)
Starting Time (Jazzland, 1961)
Bearcat (Jazzland, 1962)
With Eric Kloss
First Class Kloss! (Prestige, 1967)
With Abbey Lincoln
Abbey Is Blue (Riverside, 1959)
With Pat Martino
Strings! (Prestige, 1967)
With Christian McBride
New York Time (Chesky, 2006)
With Charles McPherson
From This Moment On! (Prestige, 1968)
Horizons (Prestige, 1968)
With Lee Morgan
The Sixth Sense (Blue Note, 1968)
With Blue Mitchell
The Cup Bearers (Riverside, 1962)
Boss Horn (1966)
Summer Soft (Impulse!, 1977)
With Houston Person
Chocomotive (Prestige, 1967)
Trust in Me (Prestige, 1967)
Blue Odyssey (Prestige, 1968)
Broken Windows, Empty Hallways (Prestige, 1972)
With Sonny Red
The Mode (Jazzland, 1961)
Sonny Red (Mainstream, 1971)
With Stanley Turrentine
Another Story (Blue Note, 1969)
With Woody Shaw
Setting Standards (Muse, 1983)
References[edit source]

^ Deardra Shuler, "Cedar Walton and Barry Harris to play Jazz at Lincoln Center", New York Amsterdam News, June 20, 2013.
^ a b Cedar Walton page at
^ Bailey, Phil (1985), Volume 35 - Cedar Walton, Jamey Aebersold, 1985.
^ Lifetime Honors, National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters.
^ Mark Memmott, "Jazz Pianist Cedar Walton Dies", NPR, August 19, 2013.
External links[edit source]

Cedar Walton at the Internet Movie Database
Interview with Cedar Walton, Do The Math, March 2010.