Cedar Walton is an American Hard Bop Jazz Pianist, and has enjoyed an exciting and up-tempo musical career for over twenty five years. He has worked with some of the most sought after Jazz greats, and also fronts his own acclaimed band, Eastern Rebellion.
Walton’s initial career in the music business was overshadowed because of getting drafted in the Army, but after returning to New York in 1958, he began his career anew and recorded with musicians such as Kenny Dorham and Art Farmer. He later joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers along with Wayne Shorter and Freddie Hubbard.
By 1995 Walton became an accompanist to Abbey Lincoln, and he also regularly recorded with Lee Morgan. He also played as a sideman for many Prestige albums and later in 1973 joined Blakey again for a tour of Japan. Eastern Rebellion, Cedar Walton’s band till date was first formed in 1975 in which Walton performed frequently as the leader of the traditional bob quartet, the other band members switched from time to time but mostly they were Clifford Jordan, George Coleman, Ralph Moore, Sam Jones, David Williams, and Billy Higgins.
Walton wrote many excellent tunes such as, Mosiac, Ugetsu and Bolivia, which have also become well known jazz standards. Apart from this, he was also the first pianist to record “Giant Steps”, in April 1959 with John Coltrane, the fact overshadowed by Walton’s underrated media coverage.
Walton credits Nat King Cole, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Art Tatum amongst those who influenced his playing style, and since the early eighties he has been active within in own band and released numerous albums including The Maestro, Roots, The Promised Land and The Bouncer, and because of his undying excellence throughout his career, he received the honor of being a part of the NEA 2010 class of Jazz Masters in January 2010.
Cedar Walton a famous American hard bop jazz pianist was born on January 17, 1934. He grew up in Dallas, Texas in a family that was no stranger to music, his own mother being an aspiring concert pianist, and Walton’s initial teacher and mentor. Cedar Walton is one of the most valued of all hard bop accompanists, a versatile pianist whose groovy touch and clear melodic sense has graced the recordings of many of jazz’s greatest players.
Walton’s mother used to take him to a lot of jazz performances around the Dallas, and this was where his interest in music began. Around his teens, he visited the University of Denver and was attracted to the environment enough to enroll in the university later on. In 1955, though, he decided to leave school and went to New York City to pursue his career in music, and met Johnny Gray at the jazz club Birdland. Gray gave Walton a chance to play at his club on Monday nights where he got his initial recognition.
His rising fame was short lived, though, because he was drafted into the Army and was stationed in Germany. He met and played with musicians Leo Wright, Don Ellis and Eddie Harris, and after getting discharged moved back to New York and continued with his career with new fervor and gusto.
It was all thanks to Walton’s mother and their trips to jazz shows that Cedar Walton was exposed to a diverse range of jazz music so early in his life. He listened to musicians such as Nat King Cole, Errol Garner, Mary Lou Williams, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Art Tatum. Walton admits to being thoroughly taken by the likes of Nat King Cole, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Art Tatum and cites then as his major influences on piano.
Cedar Walton is perhaps, one of jazz’s most underrated composers, but his standards for interpreting are first rate and hard to surpass. In fact, Walton wrote many excellent tunes such as, Mosiac, Ugetsu and Bolivia, which have become well known jazz standards. Apart from this, he is also not very well known for being the first pianist to record “Giant Steps”, in April 1959 with John Coltrane.
He joined Art Blakey from 1961 until 1964 with Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter as part of the group Art Messengers. He recorded with a number of musicians like Abbey Lincoln, Lee Morgan and served as sideman on many Prestige albums from 1965 up till the early seventies, and later joined Blakey again for their 1973 tour of Japan.
Eastern Rebellion is Cedar Walton’s own band with rotating members which includes saxophonists Clifford Jordan, George Coleman, and Bob Berg; bassist Sam Jones; and drummer Billy Higgins. Since the early eighties Walton has been active within in own band and released numerous albums including The Maestro, Roots, The Promised Land and The Bouncer.
He was inducted as a member on the NEA 2010 class of Jazz Masters in January 2010, which Walton received with great honor; and said that it represented the endurance of an artist and his output as an artist and his ability to keep a certain stream of good performances throughout his or her career.
Cedar Walton remains a core hard bop jazz pianist throughout his musical career, in fact the genre hard bob, which is essentially an extension of the bebop music, is seen as originating from Art Blakey’s The Jazz Messengers, of which Walton was a member in the early sixties. From an early age he was introduced to Jazz masters like Nat King Cole, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Art Tatum, and cites them as the major influences of his musical style.
Walton attended the University of Denver originally deciding to take up composition major but he later switched to a music education program that was directed towards a career in the public school system. This decision impacted greatly in his later musical career as he learned to play and arrange for various instruments during that program, especially during his stay with the Jazz Messengers as he played the piano as well as worked as the arranger for the band.
A versatile pianist, Walton’s funky style of playing and his first rate standards of interpreting and a keen melodic sense have made him one of the most valued players of all times. Walton has written a number of amazing tunes such as Mosiac, Ugetsu and Bolivia. Because of his flexibility and immense talent he has worked with some of the greatest names in jazz genre today, like John Coltrane, Art Blakey, George Coleman and Billy Higgins to name a few.
Cedar Walton is one of the most sought after musicians’ active today in the music business. Many of his original compositions are often recorded by other musicians, and have also become a part of the standard Jazz repertoire. He is a critic’s favorite and also receives high praise from fellow jazz musicians and audience around the world love him.
A true master of the music he adores, Cedar Walton is indeed deserving of the fame and success he has accumulated throughout his career in the music business.
Videos and Recordings
Cedar Walton Trio plays Afternoon In Paris:
Cedar Walton Quintet plays Cedar’s Blues: