*Jazz pianist Cedar Walton called into my show Topically Yours, at BlakeRadio.com, Rainbow Soul, to talk about his upcoming concert in the Allen Room, at Frederick P. Rose Hall, at Jazz at Lincoln Center on 60th Street and Broadway in Manhattan. Mr. Walton will be playing a 9 foot Steinway Concert Piano along with fellow pianist Barry Harris with whom he is sharing the bill, on Saturday, June 22.nd. The two pianists will play two sets; a 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm set. Accompanying the two NEA jazz masters will be the much admired drummer Willie Jones, III and famed bassist, Buster Williams.
Pianist Mulgrew Miller who was originally scheduled to perform on the program, suddenly died of a heart attack on May 29th. Therefore Mark Morganelli through his organization Jazz Forum Arts via their Fifth JALC Jazz Piano Summit featuring Cedar Walton and Barry Harris, will pay tribute to Mulgrew Miller via this program. Mr. Miller, who began his career with Betty Carter, and moved on to work with Billy Shaw and later Art Blakeley, was known for playing in the tradition of Oscar Peterson McCoy Tyner and Kenny Barron.
“I was surprised by Mulgrew’s sudden death. He was only 57. I can remember when I first met him. He was traveling with the Duke Ellington Orchestra under the leadership of Mercer Ellington, Duke’s son. Mulgrew came out of Mississippi and was always a very talented and capable musician. We struck up a friendship that lasted until his recent death. I am glad that the Jazz Form decided to pay tribute to Mulgrew via the concert, especially since Mulgrew was taken from us so early” remarked Walton.
Born in Dallas, Texas, Cedar began his sojourn into music very early. “My mother was a pianist who taught piano privately. She was also a public school teacher. Through her guidance I began to learn piano and knew that was what I wanted to do in life. I don’t get the opportunity too often to play with other pianists, so that will make the gig at the AllenRoom more special. It will be a treat to play the 9 foot Steinway concert grand along with Barry Harris during our Jazz at LincolnCenter show” continued the pianist and composer, who spoke about the musicians who made an impact on his life.
“I am impressed by a number of artists; Nat King Cole for instance. I did not know Nat personally but of course was very familiar with his music. In the jazz world everyone knew that Nat began his career as a pianist. I’m not sure who else knows that. The story goes that Nat was playing in some club one night and it was suggested to him that he had a golden voice and should consider singing. So Nat King Cole launched his singing career. I also admire Thelonious Monk and Art Tatum. Thelonious Monk was a contemporary who I had a healthy association with it. I much admired his work” commented Cedar of Monk whose compositions consisted of “Ask Me Now,” “Bluehawk,” “Blue Monk,” “Bright Mississippi,” “Criss Cross” and Crepuscule with Nellie, to name a few.
A composer himself, Cedar Walton penned songs like Bolivia,” “Clockwise” and “Firm Roots,” which later began jazz standards. “Everyone has their method of composing but I just sit at the keyboards and begin developing my pieces that way. I haven’t quite decided yet what numbers I will perform at the Allen room with Barry Harris, and the gifted drummer Willie Jones, and of course the talented bassist, Buster Williams, but I know whatever it will be, it will be designed to entertain. I hope the audience will enjoy it” stated the jazz great who worked formerly with Art Blakeley and the Jazz Messengers as well as with the late Abbey Lincoln.
Although it is often said that Cedar is a hard bob artist, he doesn’t want to take credit for the term stating instead that description was something the media tagged him. “I suppose they use the term “hard bop” because that came from a certain era of jazz playing. Personally, I play various forms of jazz but primarily over the years I have developed my own personal style. I have performed in many countries, Japan and Europe and most recently returned from Brazil where the audiences’ reception was overwhelming. We played a Bossa Nova piece in Brazil wherein the audience reacted with an extremely lengthy applause. It was nice to see their appreciation,” claimed Cedar who was inducted as a member into the National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Masters.
“I am looking forward to being a part of the Jazz Piano Summit presented by trumpeter Mark Morganelli, whom I am proud to know. Mark started the Jazz Forum in a loft down on East Broadway years ago. That led to his current position in the jazz production world. He is a pleasure to work with as both a musician and producer. So come out and see Barry and me on June 22nd.”
For tickets call CenterCharge at 212-721-6500, go in person to the Jazz at Lincoln Center Box Office, located on Broadway at 60th street, Ground Floor, or go on line at https://ticketing.jalc.org/single/SelectSeating.aspx?p=1790. This is a featured event of the future NPR Broadcast on JazzSet produced by WBGO-FM and supported by the National Endowment of the Arts.
Deardra Shuler is a well published journalist who has profiled celebrities and written about people of note for many years. In addition to her column at EURweb.com, she is the host of her radio show “Topically Yours” on BlakeRadio.com and has shows featured on NPR via Initiative Radio. Ms. Shuler is featured in several papers. Her international column in Sweden, “Music Pastures” is available at http://soulinterviews.com. Interested parties can acquire info regarding Deardra through Writspirit.com, Tagged.com, Facebook and Google. Contact her via: [email protected].