Claude Williamson

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A superior bop pianist influenced by Bud Powell, Claude Williamson remained busy playing on the West Coast for a half century, beginning in the 1950s. The older brother of trumpeter Stu Williamson, Claude…
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A superior bop pianist influenced by Bud Powell, Claude Williamson remained busy playing on the West Coast for a half century, beginning in the 1950s. The older brother of trumpeter Stu Williamson, Claude started on piano when he was seven and had ten years of classical piano lessons, also studying at the New England Conservatory. Williamson's first major musical job was with Charlie Barnet's orchestra in 1947. This was followed by stints with Red Norvo (1948), Barnet's bebop big band of 1949, and June Christy (1950-1951). In the 1950s, Williamson worked regularly with Bud Shank, Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars, with his own trios, and as a studio musician. He spent most of the 1960s and '70s in the studios, although he returned to jazz in the 1980s with his improvising style virtually unchanged. Having led sessions for Capitol (1954-1955), Bethlehem, Criterion, Contract (1961-1962), Sea Breeze (1977), Interplay, Discovery, Fresh Sound, and a few Japanese labels, Williamson recorded a memorable tribute to Bud Powell for V.S.O.P. in 1995. He continued to play regularly in the Los Angeles area and issue recordings into the 21st century. Claude Williamson died in July 2016 at the age of 89.