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Mal Waldron

Malcolm Earl Waldron

Pianist, Composer

(1925 - 2002)

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Obit: JazzHouse.org

Mal Waldron studied classical piano as a child but picked up the alto sax to play jazz. His piano teacher admonished him for improvising on classical works, calling it “illegal.” Waldron found his niche in jazz, where he said it was “illegal” to reproduce the same notes time after time. In 1947, after service in the Army, he concentrated on jazz piano and graduated from Queens College. He wrote music for dance companies, played with R&B groups, recorded with Ike Quebec, and joined Charles Mingus’ Jazz Composers Workshop in 1954 where he was able to explore new avenues for jazz. He became the “house” pianist for Prestige Records and in 1957 made several recordings with Jackie McLean and with John Coltrane, who recorded Waldron’s “Soul Eyes.” In 1957 he became Billie Holiday’s accompanist until her death in 1959, and together they wrote “Left Alone.”

Waldron was an early admirer of Thelonious Monk and was especially interested in Monk’s use of space. Waldron’s style, noted for its unusual voicings, defies convention and falls somewhere between hard bop and free jazz. In 1958 he and soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy recorded the first album of all Monk compositions by anyone other than the composer. In the early ‘60s Waldron joined Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach in recording original music expressing black pride and anger at the conditions of black Americans. In 1961 he recorded a series of albums at the Five Spot with multiple reed genius Eric Dolphy, who introduced Waldron’s composition “Fire Waltz,” making it a staple of his repertoire. In The Quest, recorded that same year, they explored new musical forms in a series of Waldron compositions.

In 1963 Waldron suffered a nervous breakdown and subsequent to his recovery emigrated to Europe in 1965, settling in Munich in 1967 and moving to Brussels 20 years later. In Europe and Asia Waldron enjoyed the status of a jazz guru. A dignified and intelligent man who spoke four languages, he traveled the world as a performer. He recorded extensively throughout the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s with European and Japanese jazz artists and made several solo recordings and duos with his old friend Lacy, who was living in Paris, and with American bassist David Friesen. Waldron continued to perform despite failing health, recording his final album with vocalist Judi Silvano in 2002 and receiving a rave review for his performance that year at the Chicago jazz festival.

Waldron scored several films: The Cool World, Sweet Love Bitter, Trois Chambres aManhattan (French), and Tokyo Blues (Japanese).

- Sandra Burlingame

Left Alone

Mal Waldron

The Quest

Mal Waldron with Eric Dolphy and Booker Ervin


Mal Waldron Quintet

Mal 2 With John Coltrane

Left Alone Revisited: A Tribute to Billie Holiday

Archie Shepp, Mal Waldron

Mal Waldron With the Steve Lacy Quintet

Mal Waldron, Steve Lacy

One Entrance, Many Exits

Mal Waldron

Soul Eyes: The Mal Waldron Memorial Album

Mal Waldron
Reading and Viewing

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Mal Waldron

Music Minus One: The Blues Minus You: Music Minus One C, Bb, Eb, or Bass Clef Instrumentalist

Music Minus One

Mal Waldron

Della's Dream (from the film "Sweet Love, Bitter")

Edward B. Marks Music Co.

Lyrics-Paul Evans and Paul Parnes, Music-Mal Waldron

Loser's Lament (from the film, "Sweet Love, Bitter")

Edward B. Marks Music Co.

Mal Waldron

Live At The Vanguard: The Mal Waldron Quintet

Immortal Classics


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