Mal Waldron
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Mal Waldron (1926), who had played, notably, on Charles Mingus' Pithecanthropus Erectus (1956), was a hard-bop pianist in the philosophical tradition of Thelonious Monk. His early recordings, Mal-1 (november 1956), Coolin' (april 1957), a collaboration with vibraphonist Teddy Charles that contained his Reiteration and Staggers, Mal-2 (may 1957), accompanied by the likes of John Coltrane and Jackie McLean, with Potpourri, Mal-3 Sounds (january 1958), with trumpter Art Farmer and drummer Elvin Jones (besides flute, cello, bass), boasting longer and deeper compositions (Tension, Ollie's Caravan and Portrait Of A Young Mother, with wordless vocals), Left Alone (february 1959), with Minor Pulsation and featuring a quartet with alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, Impressions (march 1959), with the three-movement Overseas Suite for a simple piano-bass-drums trio, slowly introduced his trademark: an intimate sense of anguish.

Following a series of mediocre trios, Waldron reached his artistic peak with The Quest (june 1961), featuring alto saxophonist Eric Dolphy, tenor-saxophonist Booker Ervin and cellist Ron Carter (plus bass and drums), a cycle of seven pensive Waldron sonatas bookended by Status Seeking and Fire Waltz.

After relocating to Europe in 1965, he engaged in countless collaborations (particularly with Steve Lacy), and recorded a many albums of original compositions that followed the "atmospheric" trend set by Keith Jarrett, but with an enigmatic and minimalist quality that was hardly "jazz": an album of piano solos, All Alone (march 1966), a film soundtrack, Sweet Love Bitter Love (march 1967), Set Me Free (october 1969), in a trio with bassist Barre Phillips and drummer Philly Joe Jones, Free at Last (november 1969), with the extended improvisations Pat Now and Rock My Soul, the trio Tokyo Bound (february 1970) and the solo Tokyo Reverie (february 1970), the trio Blood and Guts (may 1970), the trio Spanish Bitch (september 1970), the solo The Opening (november 1970), containing Sieg Haile, The Call (february 1971), two side-long jams (notably The Call) with organ, electric bass (Eberhard Weber) and percussion, First Encounter (march 1971), a collaboration with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Hiroshi Murakami through four lengthy pieces, the trio Number 19 (may 1971), with three lengthy improvisations, the four solo improvisations of Signals (august 1971), the solo Meditations (july 1972), the three improvisations for trio of The Whirling Dervish (may 1972), and finally Up Popped the Devil (december 1973), perhaps the best of the period, thanks to bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Billy Higgins, and to the challenging material (Up Popped the Devil, Snake Out, Changachangachang).

Hard Talk (may 1974) is a live date with Manfred Schoof (cornet), Steve Lacy (soprano sax), Isla Eckinger (bass) and Allen Blairman (drums).

After a hiatus of several years, in the 1980s Waldron resumed his intense pace of collaborations, particularly with Lacy, while recording his best material on What It Is (november 1981), with tenorist Clifford Jordan, bassist Cecil McBee and a drummer (Charlie Parker's Last Supper, Hymn for the Inferno, What It Is), One Entrance Many Exits (january 1982), with tenorist Joe Henderson, bassist David Friesen and Higgins (Golden Golson, One Entrance Many Exits, Blues in 4 by 3), the trio Mal Dance and Soul (november 1987), the solo Evidence (march 1988), with the two Rhapsodic Interludes, Crowd Scene (june 1989), two side-long improvisations for a double-sax quintet, Where Are You (june 1989), with the 22-minute Waltz for Marianne for the same quintet.

The best collaborations were perhaps the duets with bassist David Friesen on Encounters (march 1984) and Dedication (november 1985), with Rhythmics.

Waldron died in 2002 of cancer.

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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