The Kennedy Center

Cedar Walton



Biography

Cedar Walton, pianist, who was born on January 17, 1934 in Dallas, Texas, is one of the most valued of all hard bop pianists. His funky touch and cogent melodic sense has graced the recordings of many of jazz's greatest players. He is also one of the music's most interesting composers and has written a number of tunes ("Mosaic," "Ugetsu," and "Bolivia," to name a few) that found their way into Art Blakey's book during the pianist's early '60s stint with the Jazz Messengers. Mr. Walton's first piano lessons were with his mother, but as a young man his training included musical study at the University of Denver. He moved to New York in 1955, intending to play music. Instead, he was drafted into the Army. Stationed in Germany, Mr. Walton played with American musicians Leo Wright, Don Ellis, and Eddie Harris. After his discharge, he moved back to New York, where he began his career in earnest. From 1958-61 he performed and recorded with Kenny Dorham, J.J. Johnson, Art Farmer, and Benny Golson. He joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in 1961, and played alongside Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter. During the 1960s, he accompanied Abbey Lincoln and made records with Lee Morgan. Mr. Walton was the house pianist for the Prestige record label, played in a band with Hank Mobley in the early '70s and returned to Blakey for a 1973 tour of Japan. As leader of the group Soundscapes in the mid-1970s, he experimented with funk rhythms and the electric piano. His band Eastern Rebellion was comprised of a rotating cast that included saxophonists Clifford Jordan, George Coleman, and Bob Berg, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Billy Higgins. He has also worked with Jackie McLean. Mr. Walton's recordings as a leader include Hard Talk (with Steve Lacy, 1996); Black Glory (Enja, 1995); Blues For Lady Day (Black Lion, 1994); What It Is (Enja, 1994); Where Are You? (Soul Note, 1994). He appeared in "The Artistry of Billy Higgins" concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center in May 1993 and continues to perform as a soloist in duos with various double bass players and, since 1981, as a member of The Timeless All-Stars. Cedar Walton and the Timeless All-Stars were featured in the Kennedy Center's A Jazz New Year's Eve, Jan. 31, 2003.

April 2004
Cedar Walton

Compositions

  • Coronation Te Deum