Walter Norris

 pianist - composer   *27th Dec. 1931, Little Rock, Arkansas
  †29th Oct. 2011, Berlin, Germany

Classical piano studies with John H. Summers from age four and a half until eighteen. Working professionally (`44-`50) with Howard William’s 19 piece band in Little Rock; also in '49 with Bitsy Mullin's tentet. After graduating from High School, June `50, he joined Mose Allison’s Quartet but left in August `50 to serve with the U.S. Air Force in Japan and Korea. 
    Returning from Asia, summer of `52, he was engaged for six months with Jimmy Ford’s Quartet in Houston, Texas. In `53, he formed a trio for his nine month stay at the El Morocco in Las Vegas before moving on to Los Angeles where he worked in the quartets of Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Teddy Edwards, Zoot Sims, Howard McGhee, Buddy DeFranco, Herb Geller, Charlie Ventura; plus the quintets of Frank Rosolino-Charlie Mariano, Ornette Coleman-Don Cherry and Shorty Rodgers-Bill Holman…all during the period between `54 and `60. 
    Next, he journeyed to New York spending `60-`62 at the Embers and Roundtable as intermission pianist. He also joined, in '61, bassist, Hal Gaylor and guitarist, Billy Bean to recorded 'The Trio' for Riverside Records before accepting employment as pianist and eventually Musical Director of the New York Playboy Club from `63 until `70. During this time, he attended Manhattan School Of Music where he studied, as piano major, five and a half years with Heida Hermanns and continued further studies, privately, with pianist, Linda Kessler-Ferri of New York City. 
    After four years of freelancing and teaching, he joined the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra which toured throughout the United States, three times in Europe, Scandinavia twice and once in Japan. He left the Jones-Lewis Orchestra in Munich, January `76, for seven months in Scandinavia playing solo, duo with Red Mitchell, in quartet with Dexter Gordon and quintet with Red Rodney-Zoot Sims before returning to New York City, September `76, to become a member of Charles Mingus` Quintet. 
    In January `77, he signed a five year contract with the Sender Freies Berlin Radio Orchestra establishing residence in Berlin, Germany. He joined the faculty of Hochschule der Künste as Guest-Professor for Piano Improvisation in April `84 and continued through February `94. Also throughout this period, he performed concerts each year in New York and California where in `90 he accepted a five- year recording contract with Concord Jazz, Inc. He toured Japan in `94 with the Fujitsu-Concord "Jazz Summit" Festival. 
    In addition to becoming a Steinway Artist in `95, he was selected for Arkansas`Hall Of Fame by the Jazz Heritage Foundation. In August `98, he formed Sunburst Recordings, Inc. In 2003, he was inducted into Arkansas' Entertainer's Hall of Fame.
"The Life and Work of Walter Norris", a filmed documentary produced by Chuck Dodson of Hot Springs, Arkansas and made in 2004. By 2005 an autobiography, "In Search of Musical Aesthetics" plus a method book, "Essentials for Pianist Improvisers" was completed.