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Mal Waldron

Born in New York City, Waldron's jazz work was chiefly in the hard bop, post-bop and free jazz genres. He is known for his distinctive chord voicings and adaptable style, which was originally inspired by the playing of Thelonious Monk.

After obtaining a B.A. in music from Queen's College, New York, he worked in New York City in the early 1950s with Ike Quebec, "Big" Nick Nicholas, and rhythm and blues groups. He worked frequently with Charles Mingus from 1954 to 1956 and was Billie Holiday's regular accompanist from 1957 until her death in 1959. He also supervised recording sessions for Prestige Records, for which he provided arrangements and compositions (including the jazz standard "Soul Eyes"). After Holiday's death he chiefly led his own groups.

Waldron had a unique playing style. He played chords in a lower bass part of the keyboard, and is comparable to Bud Powell in his dissonant voices. His solo style is in noted contrast to players like Red Garland.

He was frequently recorded, both as a leader and sideman, with, among others, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Clifford Jordan, Booker Little, Steve Lacy, Jackie McLean and Archie Shepp.

Besides performing he composed for films (The Cool World, Three Bedrooms In Manhattan and Sweet Love Bitter), theatre, and ballet. In 1963 he had a major nervous breakdown, and had to re-learn his skills, apparently by listening to his own records. Waldron's playing style re- emerged more brooding, starker and percussive, combining bebop and avant-garde melodies, and at times weaving repetitive melodic motifs using just a few notes over a drone like accompaniment figure. After working on a film score in Europe he moved there permanently in 1965 initially living in Munich, Germany and in his last years he was based in Brussels, Belgium. On the principle that working at local venues reduced his fee, he avoided playing in the city in which he lived. He regularly returned to the United States for bookings.

Through the 1980s and 1990s he worked in various settings with Steve Lacy, notably in soprano-piano duets playing their own compositions as well as Monk's.

After some years of indifferent health, though continuing to perform, Waldron died in December 2002 in Brussels, Belgium.


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10
Album Review

Mal Waldron / Steve Lacy: The Mighty Warriors

Read "The Mighty Warriors" reviewed by Karl Ackermann


Mal Waldron and Steve Lacy first played together in 1958 at the Bowery neighborhood's Five Spot. Their association was long, if not necessarily prolific on record. Though their personal styles contrasted, they frequently existed in a parallel universe. Both expatriates lived in Paris, were predisposed to the avant-garde, and shared a deep appreciation for Thelonious Monk's music. They performed and recorded until 2002 when Waldron died. Barcelona-based Elemental Music Records acquired the previously unreleased recordings of Lacy and Waldron from ...

19
Album Review

Mal Waldron - Steve Lacy: The Mighty Warriors

Read "The Mighty Warriors" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan


Producer/jazz detective Zev Feldman is still at it, ferreting out unreleased recordings from jazz giants of the past and releasing them with buffed-up sound quality and first-rate packaging. Long lost recordings from pianists Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Art Tatum and Ahmad Jamal have seen the light of the twenty-first century, thanks to Feldman, as has newly discovered music from trumpeter Chet Baker. Now it is pianist Mal Waldron (1925 -2002) and soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy's (1934 -2004) turn, with The ...

2
Radio & Podcasts

Mal Waldron, Aymée Nuviola, Immanuel Wilkins, Grover Washington, Jr.

Read "Mal Waldron, Aymée Nuviola, Immanuel Wilkins, Grover Washington, Jr." reviewed by David Brown


This week, a soulful set with Washington, McCann and Spalding. Then some Monk by Monk and Lacy/Waldron followed by a short set of Immanuel Wilkins old and new. We will also check out recent releases by Mat Maneri Quartet and Miho Hazama, and more. Old, new, in, out... wherever the music takes us. Each week, we will explore the elements of jazz from a historical perspective. Playlist Thelonious Monk “Esistrophy (Theme)" from Live at the It Club-Complete (Columbia) ...

18
Album Review

Mal Waldron: Free At Last

Read "Free At Last" reviewed by Karl Ackermann


The sensitivity reflected in much of Mal Waldron's music was a deep aspect of his psyche. The Harlem-born pianist, who died in Brussels, Belgium, in 2002, worked downtown with saxophonist Ike Quebec at Café Society in the early 1950s and went on to record on several Charles Mingus recordings including Pithecanthropus Erectus (Atlantic), Jazz Composers Workshop (Savoy Records), and Mingus At The Bohemia (Debut Records), all released in 1956. Waldron was not at home with Mingus' style of composing and ...

482
Album Review

Mal Waldron: One More Time

Read "One More Time" reviewed by Mike Neely


One More Time is an intimate portrait of two neglected masters with a third master, Steve Lacy, stepping in to add his low-key tip of the hat. Mal Waldron and Jean-Jacques Avenel are the focus of this release that serves as a tribute to Waldron, one of jazz's most versatile pianists who died in 2002. The highlights of Waldron's career are striking by any standard. Many of his recordings with Charles Mingus, Billie Holiday, Eric Dolphy, and Steve ...

300
Album Review

Mal Waldron/Steve Lacy: Live At Dreher Paris 1981

Read "Live At Dreher Paris 1981" reviewed by Mark Corroto


The digital age with its bits and bytes has allowed for huge musical projects and reissue bonanzas. We have come from Louis Armstrong playing two minute classics cut into cylinders to today’s complete recordings of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson sessions, expanded from double LPs to four and five CDs of raw material.

Like Keith Jarrett’s recent live six-disc Blue Note set, the sprawling Live At Dreher, Paris 1981 is a large scale recording documenting a performance by ...

93
Album Review

Mal Waldron/Judi Silvano: Riding A Zephyr

Read "Riding A Zephyr" reviewed by Jerry D'Souza


During his lifetime Mal Waldron teamed with some great jazz musicians, including Billie Holiday. He was never afraid of taking chances with his music, often flying in the face of convention. He chose to express himself in modes that gave unusual shape and texture to his compositions. Those traits are in evidence here. In one of his last recordings, he finds the right complement in another singer, Judi Silvano, who gives voice to song with an assurance that delves deep ...

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4

Award / Grant

Mal Waldron - Winner, Best Previously Unreleased Album, Académie Du Jazz

Mal Waldron - Winner, Best Previously Unreleased Album, Académie Du Jazz

Source: Tompkins Square

The Académie du Jazz is the oldest and most respected jazz institution in France, created in 1954. Their electoral college is made up of 60 independent journalists, photographers, writers, radio presenters, club owners and festival organizers. They give out awards in 11 categories, and Tompkins Square's Mal Waldron set, Searching in Grenoble : The 1978 Solo Piano Concert WON Best Previously Unreleased Album. March 23rd marks the 45th anniversary of this recording. Praise for Searching in Grenoble: The 1978 Solo ...

TV / Film

Documentary: 'A Portrait of Mal Waldron'

Documentary: 'A Portrait of Mal Waldron'

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers


1

Recording

Mal Waldron: 'Searching in Grenoble' 1978

Mal Waldron: 'Searching in Grenoble' 1978

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

Struggling to record The End of a Love Affair on February 20, 1958, Billie Holiday abruptly ended a take for her album Lady in Satin with resigned frustration. “No good. I don't know it. Mal, please try to play... as loud as you can. I don't know the tune." Mal was Mal Waldron, her accompanying pianist. Holiday was in the studio booth with headphones on and couldn't hear her pianist clearly enough as a melody guide over the live strings ...

5

Recording

Mal Waldron - Searching In Grenoble: The 1978 Solo Piano Concert

Mal Waldron - Searching In Grenoble: The 1978 Solo Piano Concert

Source: Tompkins Square

Searching In Grenoble: The 1978 Solo Piano Concert is a previously unissued recording of jazz icon Mal Waldron's mesmerizing performance at the “Five Days of Jazz" series in Grenoble, France on March 23, 1978. Waldron was Billie Holiday’s final accompanist, played on classic sessions with John Coltrane, Charles Mingus and Jackie McLean among others, and recorded dozens of solo albums as a leader before his passing in 2002. Originally produced by the legendary André Francís and transferred from the original ...

114

Recording

Mal Waldron Quintet - The Git Go-Live at the Village Vanguard

Mal Waldron Quintet - The Git Go-Live at the Village Vanguard

Source: Music and More by Tim Niland

Pianist and composer Mal Waldron is something of an unsung hero in jazz, despite a lengthy career that featured him doing everything from recording with John Coltrane and Billie Holiday in the 1950's to recording duets with the likes of Archie Shepp and David Murray in the early 2000's just prior to his passing. In between, Maldron was a dependable journeyman, making a lot of records from many labels, like this set, which was recorded at the venerable Village Vanguard ...

286

Recording

Duo Session from Saxophonist David Murray & Pianist Mal Waldron

Duo Session from Saxophonist David Murray & Pianist Mal Waldron

Source: All About Jazz

On June 24, 2008 Justin Time will release “Silence," a long-awaited duo session from saxophonist David Murray & pianist Mal Waldron. Reedman/composer David Murray's astonishing career has been marked by his proclivity for embracing unusual thematic concepts, musical combinations and collaborative efforts in his prolific creative pursuits. Collaboration is the key to Silence, his latest release on Justin Time Records, and his eleventh recording as leader for the label. Here he's in the company of the legendary pianist/composer Mal Waldron, ...

132

Obituary

Mal Waldron: Expatriate Piano Great Dies in Brussels

Mal Waldron: Expatriate Piano Great Dies in Brussels

Source: All About Jazz

Mal Waldron made his mark as a sympathetic accompanist for Billie Holiday in the last years of her career in 1957-9. The pianist went on to forge a reputation as an uncompromising creative musician in his own right, initially in his native New York and later in Europe, where he lived from 1965, firstly in Paris, and later in Munich and Brussels. He was a prolific composer in several genres as well as a pianist. His ...

75

Obituary

Mal Waldron Dies 77

Mal Waldron Dies 77

Source: All About Jazz

Born: August 16, 1925 in New York City, New York Died: December 2, 2002 in Brussels, Belgium

Pianist Mal Waldron has died after short illness. His agent in Belgium issued the following statement:

Dear friends,

With great sadness I have to inform you of the passing of Mal Waldron, this December 2 at 9:15 pm local time in Brussels, Belgium. He slipped away, quietly and without pain, after a very brief illness.

Any messages for Mal's family are ...

Photos

Music

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

The Mighty Warriors

Elemental Music
2024

buy

Searching in...

Tompkins Square
2022

buy

Free At Last

ECM Records
2019

buy

Silence

Justin Time Records
2009

buy

Fire Waltz

From: Searching in Grenoble: The 1978...
By Mal Waldron

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