Mal Waldron

b. Malcolm Earl Waldron, 16 August 1926, New York City, New York, USA. 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 label, playing and arranging on sessions for artists such as John Coltraneand 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 which 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 and Enja labels by recording their debut releases. Although originally a bop pianist in the mould of Thelonious Monk, Waldron has proved adept at free jazz, most notably in various group sessions that feature soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, with whom he has also recorded an outstanding series of duos. He has written for films, is the composer of a number of pieces for the ballet and for many years enjoyed the distinction of being the best-selling jazz album artist in Japan, where he has recorded with many local musicians.

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