Cedar Walton – That Old Feeling with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. One of the great hard bop pianists, Cedar Walton was also known for his compositions, some of which have become jazz standards, such as «Bolivia,» «Clockwise,» and «Firm Roots.»
Walton was first taught piano by his mother, and, after high school, moved to Colorado to commence studies at the University of Denver. There, during after-hours jazz club gigs, he met musicians, such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and John Coltrane, who would sit in with Walton’s group when traveling through town.
Eventually, Walton moved to New York. In 1955, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Germany where he performed in a military jazz ensemble. Upon his return to New York City two years later, he began playing and recording with Kenny Dorham, J. J. Johnson, and Gigi Gryce. In 1959, he recorded with Coltrane on his seminal album Giant Steps, but the recordings weren’t included on the initial issue of the album; the alternate tracks were later issued on the CD version. From 1960-61, Walton worked with Art Farmer and Benny Golson’s band Jazztet.
Walton’s next significant musical association was with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. During his years with Blakey (1961-64), Walton stepped forward as composer, contributing originals such as «Mosaic,» «Ugetsu,» and «The Promised Land» to the group’s repertoire. Walton left the Jazz Messengers to lead rhythm sections and trios featured in various New York clubs and work as a sideman for well-known artists such as Abbey Lincoln (1965-66) and Lee Morgan (1966-68).
In 1974, Walton joined with bassist Sam Jones, drummer Billy Higgins, and saxophonist Clifford Jordan to form the group Eastern Rebellion, which would perform and record sporadically over the subsequent two decades. Other musicians rotated in and out of the band, including George Coleman, Bob Berg, Ralph Moore, David Williams, Curtis Fuller, and Alfredo «Chocolate» Armenteros. Higgins became a regular accompanist for Walton throughout the 1980s — along with other stellar musicians such as Ron Carter, Bobby Hutcherson, Harold Land, and Buster Williams. In addition, he continued to perform in rhythm sections for Milt Jackson, Frank Morgan, and Dexter Gordon and accompanied vocalists Ernestine Anderson and Freddy Cole. He also led the backup trio for the Trumpet Summit Band, which started as a project for the 1995 Jazz in Marciac festival in France.