Mal Waldron: Expatriate Piano Great Dies in Brussels


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Mal Waldron made his mark as a sympathetic accompanist for Billie Holiday in the last years of her career in 1957-9. The pianist went on to forge a reputation as an uncompromising creative musician in his own right, initially in his native New York and later in Europe, where he lived from 1965, firstly in Paris, and later in Munich and Brussels.

He was a prolific composer in several genres as well as a pianist. His most celebrated jazz tune is the strong but wistful Soul Eyes, written in 1957. It became established in the jazz repertoire as a modern “standard", but he also composed scores for ballet and a number of films, beginning with The Cool World in 1965.

He was born Malcolm Earl Waldron in New York. He began to learn piano at the age of eight, and his initial musical training came as a classical pianist. He played alto saxophone in the school band as well, but was intimidated by the example of Charlie Parker, and eventually set aside the alto and turned to piano in a jazz context as well.

He was called up by the US Army in 1943, and served in New York, where he trained cavalry horses and soaked up the city

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