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National Endowment for the Arts Statement on the Death of NEA Jazz Master Cedar Walton

It is with great sadness that the National Endowment for the Arts acknowledges the passing of 2010 NEA Jazz Master Cedar Walton. Walton was one of the great hard bop pianists as well as a composer of jazz standards "Bolivia," "Clockwise," and "Firm Roots." Over the course of his celebrated career he performed with groups led by NEA Jazz Masters as Art Farmer and Benny Golson's Jazztet and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, as well as with NEA Jazz Masters Ron Carter, Curtis Fuller, and Bobby Hutcherson. Walton continued to play an active role on the world stage including performances in Paris with his trio at the end of July.

In a 2009 interview with the NEA, Walton described how he developed his approach to composition: "I happened to be in Max Roach's apartment up on Central Park West, for what reason I can't remember, but his saxophonist was there, and I just happened to be doodling at the piano. And first I think I named it 'Central Park West,' because it came so quick like it was coming from somewhere through me on the keys. So it became my sort of patented method of coming up with pieces and digging them out of the piano, so to speak. I don't think of them and then scratch them down; often I am just sitting at the piano looking for something that sounds original to me, and I have to like it. Those are the prerequisites of me coming up with a composition. And I want it to be challenging to the players who might be involved in playing it."

The NEA joins the jazz community in mourning this loss while celebrating Walton's lasting contributions to the jazz canon and jazz performance.

Visit the NEA's website for a full bio on Cedar Walton, as well as an interview, video tribute, and Jazz Moments--short audio pieces on Walton's life and influences

Cedar Walton at the piano

2010 NEA Jazz Master Cedar Walton performs at the 2010 NEA Jazz Masters Awards Ceremony & Concert at the Rose Theater at Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center on January 12, 2010. Photo by Tom Pich

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