Cedar Walton was first taught piano by his mother. After attending the University of Denver, he moved to New York in 1955, ostensibly to play music. Instead, he was drafted into the Army. Stationed in Germany, Walton played with American musicians Leo Wright, Don Ellis, and Eddie Harris. After his discharge, Walton moved back to New York, where he began his career in earnest. From 1958-1961, Walton played with Kenny Dorham, J.J. Johnson, and Art Farmer's Jazztet, among others. Walton joined Blakey in 1961, with whom he remained until 1964. This was perhaps Blakey's most influential group, with Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter. Walton served time as Abbey Lincoln's accompanist from 1965-1966 and made records with Lee Morgan from 1966-1968; from 1967-1969, Walton served as a sideman on many Prestige albums as well. Walton played in a band with Hank Mobley in the early '70s and returned to Blakey for a 1973 tour of Japan.
From the late '60s to early '70s, Walton kept steady company with bassist Sam Jones and drummers Louis Hayes and Billy Higgins in multi-purpose trios that occasionally annexed saxophonists Clifford Jordan, George Coleman or Bob Berg for specific tours and albums.
During the '80s, Walton embarked on a variety of interesting projects, which have grown into lasting affiliations. In 1981, he formed a trio with Ron Carter and Billy Higgins, which clicked right from the start. Around the same time, Walton became part of the Timeless All-stars, a sextet also featuring Harold Land, Bobby Hutcherson, Curtis Fuller, Buster Williams and Billy Higgins. Walton also ignited rhythm sections behind the likes of Milt Jackson, Frank Morgan, Dexter Gordon and vocalists Ernestine Anderson and Freddy Cole, and held the piano chair of The Trumpet Summit Band.
Many of Walton's compositions have been adopted as jazz standards, including "Firm Roots", "Bolivia", "Mode for Joe" and "Cedar's Blues". "Bolivia" is perhaps his best known composition, while one of his oldest is "Fantasy in D", recorded under the title "Ugetsu" by Art Blakey in 1963.
In January 2010, Walton was inducted as a member of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters.
After a brief illness, Walton died on August 19, 2013, at his home in Brooklyn, New York, at the age of 79.
100 GOLD FINGERS'95 (Live in Japan)
Cedar Walton (p)
Bob Cranshow (b)
Grady Tate (ds)