Grammy Award–winning pianist, bandleader, and composer Cedar Walton (1934–2013) is a major figure in jazz, associated with a variety of styles from bebop to funk and famous for composing several standards. Born and raised in Dallas, Walton studied music in Denver, where he jammed with musicians such as Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. In 1955, Walton moved to New York, immediately gaining recognition from notable musicians and nightclub proprietors. When Walton returned to the U.S. after serving abroad in the Army, he joined Benny Golson and Art Farmer’s Jazztet. Later, he became both pianist and arranger for Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Next, he worked as part of Prestige Records’s house rhythm section, recording with numerous greats and releasing his own albums. One hallmark of Walton’s impact is his numerous long-term collaborations with giants such as trombonist Curtis Fuller and drummer Billy Higgins. By the end of his career, Walton’s discography, as both band member and bandleader, included many dozens of vaunted recordings with some of the most notable jazz musicians of the 1960s through the first decade of the twenty-first century. Ben Markley conducted more than seventy-five interviews with friends and family members, musicians who played with or were otherwise influenced by Walton, and industry figures such as club owners. Musicians interviewed include such stars as Jimmy Heath, Benny Golson, and Ron Carter. Walton’s wife Martha shared her extensive archives of photos, ephemera such as fliers and tour itineraries, and letters.
“Cedar Walton is a genius of American Music and this research is unique and needed. I love the book; it is well written and full of new information that has never been published.”—Chris Smith, author of The View from the Back of the Band: The Life and Music of Mel Lewis
“Cedar represents comprehensive coverage of the life and music of a musician that is utterly deserving, commands interest within the field, and is clearly underrepresented in the literature. This work is timely and sorely needed. Markley unearths inside information of incredible depth and breadth. By virtue of its thoroughness, it will quickly become the definitive work on Walton.”—Damani Phillips, author of What Is This Thing Called Soul
“Ben Markley has authored a wonderful and complete portrait of one of the greatest jazz pianists, composers, arrangers, and musicians of all time, The Maestro, Cedar Walton. A marvelous biography that takes the reader through Walton’s life from the perspectives of family, friends, and the top cats on the scene.”—David Hazeltine, jazz pianist, composer, arranger, and educator
“Ask anyone who knows about Cedar Walton and his considerable contribution to the music we call jazz and they can't say enough. Cedar is beautifully written, candid, and full of insight into this gentle giant of a musician. Congratulations, Ben Markley, and thank you for this.”—Ralph Moore, former member of Cedar Walton’s Eastern Rebellion and veteran jazz musician
“I have great respect and appreciation for Ben Markley’s well-crafted and enlightening book on Cedar Walton’s life and genius. Markley includes reflections and perspectives of master musicians and close associates of Walton’s to create a kaleidoscopic view of his humanity, imprint, and originality. Walton’s piano mastery, singular compositions, and nonpareil improvising secure his place in the pantheon of music’s major figures. With Cedar Ben Markley makes an essential contribution that reinforces the legacy of this musical giant.”—Bill Charlap, Grammy Award-winning pianist and Director of Jazz Studies, William Paterson University