Cedar Walton, born 1/17/34, started gigging around his native Dallas in
high school, playing with rhythm and blues bands. He came to New York in
1955 but was drafted and spent the next three years in the Army, playing
with such musicians as Don Ellis and Leo Wright. When he returned to the
Jazz Mecca, he began working with Lou Donaldson, Gigi Gryce, Sonny Rollins
and Kenny Dorham before landing his first touring job with J.J. Johnson.
Cedar joined Art Blakey in 1961, and remained a Jazz Messenger until 1964.
This was perhaps Blakey's most influential group, with Freddie Hubbard and
Wayne Shorter. Walton served time as Abbey Lincoln's accompanist from
1965-66 and made records with Lee Morgan from 1966-68; from 1967-69, Walton
served as a sideman on many Prestige albums as well.
Cedar Walton's own band of the period was Eastern Rebellion, which
featured a rotating cast of saxophonists Clifford Jordan, George Coleman
and Bob Berg, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Billy Higgins. Today, Cedar
leads one of the preeminent active trios, with bassist David Williams and
drummer Billy Higgins.
One of the most valued of all hard bop accompanists, Cedar Walton is a
versatile pianist whose 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 more underrated composers; although he has always been a first-rate
interpreter of standards, Walton wrote a number of excellent tunes
("Mosaic," "Ugetsu," and "Bolivia," to name a few) that found their way
into Art Blakey's book during his early-'60s stint with the Jazz Messengers.