Marion Hayden, Donald Walden's bassist in the Free Radicals, e-mailed these thoughts regarding her late friend”.
The world of jazz in general and Detroit in particular has truly lost a giant. As a protege of Barry Harris, Donald was the link from bebop styles through post-bop styles. His style of playing was very unique and was really a synthesis of his bebop roots and more contemporary influences such as John Coltrane and Joe Henderson. He demonstrated mastery of his horn and a deep understanding of the language of jazz. He was able to convey this knowledge in an academic setting and was beloved as a professor at both Oberlin College and University of Michigan.
As a colleague of Donald's at U of M, I can attest to the great influence he has had on young musician’s understanding of jazz music and its cultural roots.
He brought authority and authenticity to every musical experience. I really loved Donald's composing. Many of his compositions were expressions of personal conscience and experience: "Soweto/Detroit" was Donald's version of a tale of two cities, geographically separated, but similar in many ways; "Sweeter than You Know" is a gorgeous ballad written for his beautiful wife Marsha.
His most recent group project, the Free Radicals, was a wide open performance setting featuring some of Detroit's most dynamic musicians: Cassius Richmond (alto sax) contributed several compositions to the group; Dwight Adams (trumpet), Rick Roe (piano), Thaddeus Dixon (drums, a newcomer to the Detroit jazz scene and recent MSU grad) and myself (bass). Donald composed some thrilling material for the band — different styles and feels. We also have some compositions by Kenn Cox and Mulgrew Miller in the book. The Radicals were in the process of finishing a recording project and had performed to stellar reviews.
Donald's spirit and music will live on in all of us whose lives were touched by him. I will miss him deeply.
Walden in performance at an unknown location.
(MT Photo: W. Kim Heron)
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.