Mal Waldron

Hard bop, Musical Artist

1925 – 2002

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Who was Mal Waldron?

Malcolm Earl "Mal" Waldron was an American jazz pianist, composer, and arranger. He started playing professionally in New York in 1950, after graduating from university. In the following dozen years or so Waldron led his own bands and played for those led by Charles Mingus, Jackie McLean, John Coltrane, and Eric Dolphy, among others. Some of these were during Waldron's period as house pianist for Prestige Records in the late 1950s, when he appeared on dozens of albums and composed for many of them, including writing his most famous song, "Soul Eyes", with Coltrane in mind. Waldron was often an accompanist for vocalists, most notably for Billie Holiday during her final two years, 1957–59.

A breakdown caused by a drugs overdose in 1963 left Waldron unable to play or remember any music; he regained his skills gradually, while redeveloping his speed of thought. He left the U.S. permanently in the mid-1960s, settled in Europe, and continued touring internationally until his death.

In his 50-year career, Waldron recorded more than 100 albums under his own name and more than 70 for other leaders. He also wrote for modern ballet, and composed the scores of several feature films. As a pianist, Waldron's roots lay 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. He is known for his dissonant chord voicings and distinctive later playing style, which featured repetition of notes and motifs.

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Aug 16, 1925
New York City
Also known as
  • Waldron, Mal
  • African American
  • United States of America
  • Queens College, City University of New York
Lived in
  • New York City
Dec 2, 2002

on July 23, 2013


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