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Malcolm Earl Waldron (August 16, 1925December 2, 2002) was an Americanmarker jazz and world music pianist and composer, born in New York Citymarker.

Like his contemporaries, Waldron's roots lie chiefly in the hard bop and post-bop genres of the New York club scene of the 1950s; but with time, he gravitated more towards free jazz and composition. He is known for his dissonant chord voicings and distinctive playing style, which was originally inspired by Thelonious Monk.

Early years

After obtaining a B.A. in music from Queen's College, New York, he worked in New York Citymarker in the early 1950s with Ike Quebec, "Big Nick" Nicholas, and rhythm and blues groups. He worked frequently with Charles Mingus from 1954 to 1956 and was Billie Holiday's regular accompanist from 1957 until her death in 1959. He also supervised recording sessions for Prestige Records, for which he provided arrangements and compositions of which arguably his most famous, "Soul Eyes", became a widely recorded jazz standard. After Holiday's death he chiefly led his own groups.

Waldron had a unique yet instantly recognizable playing style. He finessed thick and rich chords in the lower bass register; although sometimes compared to Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk for his dissonant voicings, his emphasis on weight, texture and frequent repetition of a single and simple motif as opposed to linear and melodic improvisation gave a heavy and melancholic color to his sound. Considered somewhat of an avant-gardist, his solo style - which often produced more of a wall of sound than a line of melody - was in stark contrast to more traditional and technical players of his time. Waldron became something of an unsung legend for his uncanny ability to play very slow, deep and even disturbing ballads bordering on sorrow, while himself sitting perfectly motionless, stoic and stolid at the piano, his face devoid of all emotion.

He was frequently recorded, both as a leader and sideman, with, among others, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Clifford Jordan, Booker Little, Steve Lacy, Jackie McLean, Donald Byrd, Embryo and Archie Shepp.

Besides performing, he composed for films (The Cool World, Three Bedrooms in Manhattan and Sweet Love Bitter), theatre, and ballet. In 1963 he had a major nervous breakdown, and had to re-learn his skills, apparently by listening to his own records. Waldron's playing style re-emerged more brooding, starker and percussive, combining bebop and avant-garde melodies, and at times weaving repetitive melodic motifs using just a few notes over a drone like accompaniment figure.


After working on a film score in Europe he moved there permanently in 1965 initially living in Munichmarker, Germanymarker and in his last years he was based in Brusselsmarker, Belgiummarker. He performed and recorded extensively throughout Europe and Japan in his later decades, regularly returned to the United States for bookings.

His 1969 album, Free At Last, was the first ever release on the ECM label.

Through the 1980s and 1990s he worked in various settings with Steve Lacy, notably in soprano-piano duets playing their own compositions as well as Monk's.

After some years of indifferent health, though continuing to perform, Waldron died in December 2002 in Brusselsmarker, Belgiummarker.


As leader

As sideman


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