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Cedar Walton

By Published: January 5, 2006
CW: Yeah, resilience. He was just an all around nice guy. He liked to sit with the younger ladies. I never met Lorraine Gordon until he was no longer around and then she came around and took over. Prior to that it was always Max. He lived a long time. Long enough to write a book about it. That was a book that I read. What was it, 50 years at the time?

AAJ: I think the Vanguard had been around at least 50 years at the time and maybe 60.

CW: I heard that he used to have people like even Barbra Streisand had done a stint there, perhaps opposite Miles Davis at one point. All kinds of people—Professor Irwin Corey and a string of people that no longer appear there because it's strictly music now. Judy Holliday. And he gave people breaks, including myself. Opportunities to be a leader while you were still a sideman.

AAJ: You didn't get to work much as a leader when you were a sideman with the Messengers?

CW: No, not during that time. The Messengers were always working. Every time you thought you were free—off for a few days to relax—Art would call with a gig. And I hadn't even unpacked yet. Yeah we really worked a lot. When I think of it now I feel we could have gotten a little more press.

AAJ: I couldn't find any documentation of the Messengers working in the Vanguard around that time.

CW: No I don't think that we did. Birdland was where we played most of the time.

AAJ: I noticed in your discography a DVD where you played with Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter and Lenny White at the Vanguard. On the disc in between tunes there are interviews and each member of the group talking with Max.

CW: Yeah. That was a project with some people from Philadelphia whose names I can't remember. A production company came and offered us that gig. It was a nice event. I remember that I was more comfortable with some of the tunes than others, but it was still fun. It's always nice to play with Freddie and Ron again.

AAJ: When did you begin playing your two week Vanguard Christmas residency?

CW: Wow. It's been at least five years, I don't have the exact dates. First we would do one week with Jackie [McLean] and one with Vincent [Herring] and then slowly but surely Jackie fades out and we were lucky—I consider us lucky because we caught [Roy] Hargrove in town that week off. So we worked it out and he came in and he's been doing it. This is his third year. So Roy fit in and liked being right here at home. We blended in pretty good, much to my surprise. Roy is the type of person, the type of musician, who is very, very sensitive musically and adaptable. Some of the tunes of mine that I didn't think he'd be attracted to he looked straight at and start to play. He's an unusual member of that generation, at least as far as I'm concerned, in that he's comfortable with musicians of generations that came before him.

AAJ: You travel so much, working all over the world, it must be nice having those two weeks to be home for the holidays every year.

CW: Well it is the Vanguard, which is somewhat of a home. Me and the queen there, Lorraine Gordon, get along famously. I call her my wife and she says, "Where's my alimony?" We do have a nice rapport and that's a big part of it. It's something we've gotten used to. One or two times the management of the Vanguard wondered if we'd mind if we were replaced for that particular year and I became adamant about it because I started to depend on it and really look forward to it, so I told her I was going to jump off a cliff if they got somebody else.

Recommended Listening:

Cedar Walton, Underground Memoirs (HighNote, 2005)
Cedar Walton, Latin Tinge (HighNote, 2003)
Cedar Walton Trio, Manhattan After Hours (Twinz, 2002)
Cedar Walton, The Promise Land (HighNote, 2001)
Cedar Walton, The Maestro (32 Records, 2000)
Cedar Walton, The Trio Vol. 1, 2, 3 (Red, 1985)
Cedar Walton, Eastern Rebellion, Vol. 1 & 2 (Timeless, 1975/1977)

Cedar Walton (with Clifford Jordan), A Night at Boomer's, Vol.1&2 (Muse, 1973)

Cedar Walton, Cedar! (Prestige-OJC, 1967)

Joe Henderson, Mode for Joe (Blue Note, 1966)

Art Blakey, Ugetsu (Riverside-OJC, 1963)

Related Article: Cedar Walton Trio Concert Review (2004)

Photo Credit
John Abbott

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