Cedar Anthony Walton, Jr. (17 January 1934 – 19 August 2013) was an American hard bop jazz pianist.
He came to prominence as a member of Art Blakey’s band, before establishing a long career as a bandleader and composer.
Walton was first taught piano by his mother. After attending the University of Denver, he moved to New York City in 1955 to play music, but was instead drafted into the Army. While stationed in Germany, he played with American musicians Leo Wright, Don Ellis and Eddie Harris.
After discharge, Walton moved back to New York and concentrated on his music career. From 1958 to 1961, he played with Kenny Dorham, J. J. Johnson and Art Farmer’s Jazztet, among others.
In April 1959, Walton recorded the first take of ‘Giant Steps’ with John Coltrane, although, unlike Tommy Flanagan after him, he did not have to take a solo.
In the early 1960s, Walton joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers as a pianist-arranger, playing with Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter. He left the Messengers in 1964 and by the late 1960s was part of the house rhythm section at Prestige Records. He also played with Abbey Lincoln for a year and recorded with Lee Morgan from 1966 to 1968.
During the mid-1970s, Walton led the funk group Mobius and from the 1980s onwards, he continued to lead his own bands, releasing numerous albums including The Maestro, Cedar Walton Plays and Composer.
Further albums followed in the 2000s, including The Promise Land, his debut for Highnote, Latin Tinge, Underground Memoirs, Seasoned Wood, Voices Deep Within and The Bouncer.
Many of Walton’s compositions have been adopted as jazz standards, including ‘Firm Roots’, ‘Bolivia’, ‘Mode for Joe’ and ‘Cedar’s Blues’.
In January 2010, Walton was inducted as a member of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters.
This live recording shows Walton playing ‘Satin Doll’ in 1995.