Jazz community, others mourning Cedar Walton

Published 7:25 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cedar Walton, jazz pianist, arranger and bandleader passed away in his home in Brooklyn at 79 on Aug. 19.


The next day, East Coast Jazz Revue’s president and founder, Larry Turner of Washington, received a call from the Walton family to alert him of Walton’s passing. Walton was scheduled to appear in January to kick off the East Coast Jazz Revue’s Winter Series in 2014.


During a career that spanned more than 50 years, Walton was regarded as a leading post-bop jazz and funk-jazz artist, and had played and/or recorded with the Who’s Who of Jazz: Charlie “Byrd” Parker, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Lou Donaldson, Kenny Dorham, Benny Golson, John Coltrane, Abbey Lincoln, Milt Jackson, as well as a host of other big names in jazz. While in the Army in the 1950s Walton sat in with Duke Ellington’s band and received a high compliment from the maestro.


In 2010, Walton received the nation’s highest honor in jazz when he was inducted into the National Endowment for the Arts Class of Jazz Masters. In December 2011, while performing for the East Coast Jazz Revue at Washington’s historic Turnage Theater, Walton was interviewed by Public Radio East and commented on the NEA recognition: “It was an honor to be chosen for the accomplishments that one has made, and I was quite gratified to receive that. I guess that was my best day.”


In 2011, Walton received the prestigious UCLA Duke Ellington Masters of Jazz Award. Many of his compositions have become jazz standards such as “Firm Roots,” “Bolivia,” “Cedar’s Blues,” “Ugetsu (Fantasy in D),” “Mode for Joe” and so many others.


At the last jazz concert at the Turnage Theater, Washington Mayor Pro Tempore Bobby Roberson presented a proclamation to Walton, declaring Walton “a jazz icon, living legend and an American treasure.”


That evening, Walton performed from his latest release “The Bouncer” and was joined by his band members, saxophonist Vincent Herring, bassist David Williams and drummer Willie Jones III.


“We have truly lost a great master and a creative human being,” Turner remarked. “The jazz legends are leaving us, which is why we must recognize them while they are still here. East Coast Jazz Revue was honored to have Mr. Walton to accept our invitation especially after Hurricane Irene had forced us to cancel the performance scheduled in August. He will surely be missed by all who love jazz.”


Walton performed in concert as part of East Coast Jazz Revue’s Winter Series at the Turnage Theater on Dec. 10, 2011, just before its closing that month.


Larry Turner is president and founder of the East Coast Jazz Review. He lives in Washington.