During his Berklee years he backed a number of R&B singers in the Boston and Cambridge areas and gigged with his fellow students. While in Boston he worked in the band Change with bassist Gary Peacock. Walrath graduated from the Berklee program in 1968. In 1969 Walrath relocated to the West Coast and found work in Los Angeles’ jazz scene. Soon he was a member of the band Revival, with trombonist Glenn Ferris, and the West Coast Motown Orchestra.
An opportunity soon arose to work with the legendary Ray Charles, with whom Walrath did one tour of the United States. By 1970 the openings for jazz musicians in Los Angeles began to dry up, and Walrath relocated again to New York City. Walrath spent the next several years working with mainstream and Latin jazz bands. In 1974 Walrath was working in the band of saxophonist Paul Jeffrey when the leader introduced him to bassist Charles Mingus, a pioneer of bebop and post-bop jazz who was experiencing a career resurgence. Baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett had recently left Mingus’ band, and Walrath was eager to fill the opening.
He joined tenor saxophonist George Adams, pianist Don Pullen and drummer Dannie Richmond in the quintet, which was acclaimed as one of Mingus’ finest ensembles and broke new ground by leaning towards free jazz and non-chordal improvisations. Aside from Richmond, who had worked with Mingus off and on since the 1950s, Walrath enjoyed the longest unbroken tenure of any Mingus sideman. He made music with the bassist up until Mingus’ death in 1979. The primary albums of interest from Walrath’s tenure with Mingus are Changes One and Changes Two, both recorded for Atlantic Records in 1974.
The latter album features Walrath’s composition “Black Bats and Poles” (originally entitled “Rats and Moles” until Mingus decided it needed a darker name). Walrath has extended the Mingus legacy through his work with Mingus Dynasty, a mid-sized tribute band, and the Charles Mingus Big Band coordinated by Mingus’ widow, Sue Graham Mingus. Walrath has been a sideman for Muhal Richard Abrams, Ricky Ford, Sam Rivers, Joe Morello, Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Ray Anderson, Craig Harris, Pete LaRoca, Mike Longo, Elvis Costello, Larry Willis, George Gruntz, Gunther Schuller, Hal Galper, Bobby Watson, Richie Cole and others. He has worked with the WDR Big Band, the Jazz Tribe and the Charli Persip Superband. Walrath's appeal was summed up by reviewer David Grogan: "Like Mingus, Walrath delights in rich melodic nuances and colors, with blue notes stretched amid bursts of rhythmic energy." Ensembles under Walrath’s own leadership have included The Jack Walrath Group, Wholly Trinity, Hard Corps, The Masters of Suspense, and The Jack Walrath Quintet.
In 1987 Walrath received a Grammy nomination for a cover of "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" (on the album Master of Suspense) featuring Willie Nelson. His compositions have been performed and recorded by Hamiet Bluiett, Red Rodney, Larry Willis, Mike Clark, Cecil Brooks III, Ray Mantilla, Hank Jones, Zé Eduardo, and the Manhattan New Music Project. His television scores include Homicide: Life on the Streets. Walrath has received composition grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Aaron Copland Composition Grant and the Mary Flagler Cary Trust, and performance grants from the NEA and Quad City Arts. He has had compositions and arrangements commissioned for virtually every instrumental combination from symphony orchestra to solo piano.
He has conducted seminars, master classes, music camps and clinics in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Japan, Israel, Finland and across the United States. Walrath has also written an instruction book, 20 Melodic Jazz Studies for Trumpet (published by Advance Music), and is currently working on an autobiography, CD and record guide. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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