Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Norris, Walter (Metcalf)

Norris, Walter (Metcalf), piano, educator; b. Little Rock, Arkansas, 27 December 1931. He lived his first eighteen years in Little Rock, Ark. His mother was Mary Metcalf Norris (December 16, 1903 - February 23, 1973, Evening Shade, Ark.), a pianist. His father was Lucian Norris (January 27, 1897 - May 12, 1981, Poughkeepsie, Ark.), a singer. His teacher was John H. Summers  (church organist). He began piano lessons in September1936 and continued through May 1950.

He had 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. He studied with Heida Hermanns at the Manhattan School of Music from October 1963 through May 1969. He then studied privately with Linda Kessler-Ferri 1970 through 1972 in 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 Kunste 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 July '02, he was selected for  Arkansas' "Entertainer's Hall of Fame"

His first spouse was Helen Manderscheid (singer) and they had two daughters, Dinah (December 21, 1955) and Delia (March 2, 1958) whose married names are, Dinah Matchael and Delia Grigsby. Both are artist/painters and also studied piano. His second marriage was to Marie-Rose van Deinse, in Berlin, a violinist. And then he had a third marriage to Kirsten Mohnhaupt, an art teacher in Berlin.

Recorded Compositions:                                   
Never Should It End (1954); Dozo (1954); Jack Departs (1954); Guatemala (1954); Scrambled (1961); Drifting (1974); Nota Cambiata (1974); Rose Waltz (1974); Thumbs Up (1974); Spacemaker (1974); Synchronicity (1978); Stepping On Cracks (1979); Winter Rose (1980); Enkephalins (1980); Modus Vivendi (1990); Vars (1991); C.J.'S Blues (1991); Thumbs Out (1991); Sunburst (1991); Rose Petals (1991); Love Every Moment (1993); Moonglazed (1993); Postscript Blues (1993); Hues Of Blues (1995); Backbone Mode (1995); Orchids 'N Green (1995); Afterthoughts (1995); From Another Star (1998); Images Enhanced (1998); Elysium (1998); Sunhazed (1998); A Crest Of Amber (1998); Dark Brows (1998); Twilight 'Til Dawn (2000); A Touch Of Jade (2001)

"Barney, Bradley And Max" by Whitney Balliett. Oxford Univ. Press
"Jazz Seen" by William Claxton  Taschen Verlag
"New York Notes" by Whitney Balliett     Da Capo Press
"Pianophoto" by W. Frankenstein   Konzert Verlag
"Jazz Solo Piano" (Body & Soul) by Franz Krieger (Graz, Austria; solos by Norris and other pianists, transcribed and analyzed)

Contact information:
Walter Norris
12157 Berlin, Germany
tel:  +49 30 85 60 08 47
fax: +49 30 85 60 08 48

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