Walter Norris

Walter Norris, a brilliant pianist and virtuoso, was an exemplary musician whose improvisations were complex harmonically but often melodic. If he hadn’t spent so much time in Germany, he would have been more well-known in the U.S. As a teenager, Norris was with Howard Williams in Arkansas (1944-1950), was in Houston (1952-1953), and led his own trio at Las Vegas (1953-1954). He then settled in Los Angeles. He appeared on quite a few sessions in the second half of 1950s, including with Jack Sheldon and Frank Rosolino. Ornette Coleman’s first album (1958) was also recorded there. While he tried his best, it was the last time Coleman would use a piano for many decades. Norris was the music director at the Playboy Club from 1963-1970. He also played with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra between 1974-1976. After a short stint with Charles Mingus and a visit to Scandinavia, Norris settled in Berlin in 1977. He taught and performed music for the rest of his life. Walter Norris made several trips to the U.S. in the 1990s. He recorded dates for Concord and displayed his remarkable musical growth over the past 20 years. He always returned to Berlin, where he passed away on October 29, 2011, two months before his 80th birthday. Allmusic

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