Cedar Walton, a renowned hard bop pianist and composer, made significant contributions to jazz music, appearing on over 100 albums as both a sideman and leading his own groups. Starting in 1958 in New York, he collaborated with notable musicians like Kenny Dorham, J.J. Johnson, and Golson and Farmer's Jazztet. Joining Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in 1961, he served as pianist and arranger, crafting memorable compositions such as "Bolivia," "Ugetsu," and "Mosaic." After leaving the Messengers, Walton worked with Abby Lincoln and Lee Morgan, and served as the house pianist for Prestige Records. For the next 3 decades Walton led and recorded with a number of groups, most notably his group Eastern Rebellion which featured drummer Billy Higgins. Cedar Walton died at his home after a brief illness in 2013 at the age of 79.
Cedar Walton was named a NEA Jazz Master in 2010. Cedar Walton played in a military jazz ensemble when he was stationed in Germany with the US Army. Cedar Walton played with John Coltrane on his first recordings of Giant Steps but his takes were not included in the initial release; they are included as alternate tracks on later reissues.
Cedar Walton was born in 1934 in Dallas, Texas. His mother was an aspiring concert pianist and Walton's first teacher. He briefly studied at Dillard University in New Orleans before transferring to the University of Denver where he studied composition and music education. While in Denver he led a trio which often played with visiting jazz musicians including Dizzy Gillespie and John Coltrane. In 1955 Walton moved to New York to pursue music, but was drafted into the US Army. After completing his service in 1958, he returned to New York and quickly began working with artists such as Kenny Dorham and J.J. Johnson.