Born in New York City, Waldron's jazz work was chiefly in the hard bop, post-bop and free jazz genres. He is known for his distinctive chord voicings and adaptable style, which was originally inspired by the playing of Thelonious Monk.
After obtaining a B.A. in music from Queen's College, New York, he worked in New York City in the early 1950s with Ike Quebec, Big Nick Nicholas, and rhythm and blues groups. He worked frequently with Charles Mingus from 1954 to 1956 and was Billie Holiday's regular accompanist from 1957 until her death in 1959. He also supervised recording sessions for Prestige Records, for which he provided arrangements and compositions (including the jazz standard Soul Eyes). After Holiday's death he chiefly led his own groups.
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