Mal Waldron Biography

Malcolm Earl Waldron, 16 August 1926, New York City, New York, USA, d. 2 December 2002, Brussels, Belgium. After studying piano and composition formally, Waldron began playing professionally with a succession of R&B bands. He also recorded with Ike Quebec and from 1954 was a regular associate of Charles Mingus. Waldron’s own mid-50s band enjoyed a measure of success in live performances and on record, and he also led the house band for the Prestige Records label, playing and arranging on sessions for artists such as John Coltrane and Art Farmer. Late in the decade Waldron became Billie Holiday’s regular accompanist, remaining with her for nearly two and a half years. After Holiday’s death in 1959 he accompanied Abbey Lincoln, but was mainly active in studio work. In the early 60s, he played with leading jazz musicians such as Eric Dolphy, Booker Little and Max Roach, but suffered a serious illness that set back his career. From the late 60s Waldron was resident in Europe, finally settling in Munich, where he helped to launch both the ECM Records and Enja labels by recording their debut releases.

Although originally a bop pianist in the mould of Thelonious Monk, Waldron proved adept at free jazz, most notably in various group sessions that featured soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, with whom he also recorded an outstanding series of duos. He wrote for films, was the composer of a number of pieces for the ballet and for many years enjoyed the distinction of being the bestselling jazz album artist in Japan, where he recorded with many local musicians. In 1998, he recorded Soul Eyes, an all-star celebration of his career featuring Joe Henderson, Steve Coleman and Abbey Lincoln.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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