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Mon, 08.16.1926

Mal Waldron, Pianist born

Mal Waldron

*Mal Waldron was born on this date in 1926. He was a Black musician.

From New York, early on, Malcolm Earl Waldron played jazz on alto saxophone and classical music on the piano, but he switched permanently to jazz piano while at Queens College.  He freelanced around his hometown in the early '50s and debuted with Ike Quebec.  Later he played with Big Nick Nicholas and a variety of R&B groups.  From 1954-56 Waldron often worked with Charles Mingus and was Billie Holiday's regular accompanist during her last two years, 1957-59. He was hired by Prestige to supervise recording sessions and added many originals (including "Soul Eyes," which became a standard) and basic arrangements.

He had led his groups since Holiday's death and was part of the Eric Dolphy Booker Little Quintet, recorded extensively at the Five Spot in 1961. Waldron also worked with Abbey Lincoln for a time during the 1960s. He wrote three film scores (The Cool World, Three Bedrooms In Manhattan, and Sweet Love Bitter) before moving permanently to Europe in 1965, settling in Munich in 1967. Waldron, who has occasionally returned to the U. S. for visits, was a major force in the European jazz world.  His album Free at Last was the first released by ECM, and his Black Glory was the fourth Enja album.

Waldron, who has frequently teamed up with Steve Lacy (often as a duet), kept quite busy featuring a style that evolved but was traceable to his earliest recordings.  A dark, rhythmic, introverted pianist, Mal Waldron's playing has long been flexible enough to fit into hard-bop and freer venues.

Influenced by Thelonious Monk's use of space, Waldron had his distinctive chord voicing. Mal Waldron died on December 2nd, 2002.

To Become a Musician or Singer


All Music

All That Jazz The Illustrated Story of Jazz Music
General Editor: Ronald Atkins
Copyright 1996, Carlton Books Limited
ISBN 0-76519-953-X

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