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Breaking New Ground

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Album Review

Mal Waldron's Breaking New Ground is an abrupt departure for the pianist. Normally focusing on his own compositions, these 1983 trio sessions with Reggie Workman and Ed Blackwell find him mining current pop songs, including a novel approach to "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," and a rather tedious rendition of "Beat It." The moody setting of "Everything Must Change" benefits from Waldron's typically dark chords, while French Impressionist Erik Satie's "Gympnopedie #2" is initially interpreted as a very deliberate solo, with Workman gradually working in some sporadic fills. Johnny Mandel's "Suicide Is Painless" (also known as "Theme from M*A*S*H") was a favorite of pianist Bill Evans, but Waldron opts to approach this darkly comic ballad as an intense post-bop cooker instead. The leader's sole original is the loping opener "Dans La Cuisine d'Alibi," which ends up sounding like a closing theme from a detective film. This CD may startle Waldron's fans a bit, but it proves that he was open to new ideas.


Born: 16 August 1926 in New York, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

A pianist with a brooding, rhythmic, introverted style, Mal Waldron's playing has long been flexible enough to fit into both hard bop and freer settings. Influenced by Thelonious Monk's use of space, Waldron has had his own distinctive chord voicings nearly from the start. Early on, Waldron played jazz on alto and classical music on piano, but he switched permanently to jazz piano while at Queens College. He freelanced around New York in the early '50s with Ike Quebec (for whom he made his recording...
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Breaking New Ground, Mal Waldron
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