Walter Bishop Jr.

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Walter Bishop Jr.
Walter Bishop, Jr..jpg
Background information
Also known as Ibrahim ibn Ismail
Born (1927-10-04)October 4, 1927
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died January 24, 1998(1998-01-24) (aged 70)
New York City
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Piano
Years active 1940s–1990s
Labels Black Lion, Prestige, Xanadu, Black Jazz, Muse, East Wind, Pony Canyon, Red, DIW
Associated acts Milt Jackson, Stan Getz, Charlie Parker, Oscar Pettiford, Kai Winding, Miles Davis

Walter Bishop Jr. (October 4, 1927 – January 24, 1998) was an American jazz pianist.

Early life[edit]

Bishop was born in New York City on October 4, 1927.[1] He had at least two sisters, Marian and Beverly.[2] His father was composer Walter Bishop Sr.[2] In his teens, Bishop Jr.'s friends included future jazz musicians Kenny Drew, Sonny Rollins, and Art Taylor.[2] He was brought up in Harlem.[2] He left high school to play in dance bands in the area.[2] In 1945–47 he was in the Army Air Corps.[2] During his military service in 1947 Bishop was based near St Louis and met touring bebop musicians.[1]

Later life and career[edit]

Later in 1947, he returned to New York.[2] That year (or 1949[2]) he was part of drummer Art Blakey's band for 14 weeks and recorded with them.[1] Bishop developed his bebop playing in part by playing in jam sessions at Minton's Playhouse.[2]

He recorded with Milt Jackson and Stan Getz in 1949, then played with Charlie Parker (1951–54), Oscar Pettiford, Kai Winding, and Miles Davis (1951–53).[1] At this time he was also a drug addict, which led to imprisonment and the withdrawal of his New York City Cabaret Card.[1] In 1956, he recorded with Hank Mobley.[1] "At some point he became a Muslim and took the name Ibrahim ibn Ismail, but he did not use this publicly."[1] In the early 1960s he also led his own trio with Jimmy Garrison and G. T. Hogan.

After studying at The Juilliard School with Hall Overton in the late 1960s,[2] Bishop taught music theory at colleges in Los Angeles in the 1970s. At some point prior to moving from New York to Los Angeles, Bishop met and married the former Valerie Isabel Paul. They then moved to Los Angeles. According to an only son, Jay Blotcher, whom Mrs. Valerie Bishop gave up for adoption (not the son of Walter Bishop, Jr) prior to meeting Bishop, Valerie Bishop worked as an assistant for Ike and Tina Turner in California. Valerie Bishop is the Valerie Bishop Tina Turner refers to personally and in the movie Whats Love Got To Do With It[3], that turned Tina Turner on to Buddhism. It is not known the date Valerie and Bishop separated and/or divorced.

In the 1980s Bishop taught at the University of Hartford.[2] By this time, he made frequent appearances at clubs and festivals in New York.[2] He also wrote a book, A Study in Fourths, about japzz improvisation based on cycles of fourths and fifths. His debut recording as a leader was in the 1960s.[2] He continued performing into the 1990s.


Bishop died of a heart attack at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Manhattan on January 24, 1998.[2] He was survived by his wife, Keiko, his mother, and two sisters.[2]

Playing style[edit]

Bishop was influenced at an early stage by Bud Powell.[2] Later, Bishop was "known for holding back on the beat, a device that added tension to the music."[2]


As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Gene Ammons

With Art Blakey

With Rocky Boyd

With Miles Davis

With Kenny Dorham

With Curtis Fuller

With John Handy

  • Jazz (Roulette, 1962)

With Milt Jackson

With Ken McIntyre

With Jackie McLean

With Blue Mitchell

With Hank Mobley

With Charlie Parker

With Oscar Pettiford

With Dizzy Reece

With Charlie Rouse

With Archie Shepp

With Sonny Stitt

With Harold Vick

With Stan Getz Zoot Sims etc


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Greene, Philip; Kernfeld, Barry "Bishop, Walter Jr.". The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (2nd edition). Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved February 18, 2016. Subscription required.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Ratliff, Ben (January 29, 1998) "Walter Bishop Jr., 70, Jazz Pianist Who Rode Be-Bop's First Wave". The New York Times. p. B9.
  3. ^ "What's Love Got to Do with It (film)". Wikipedia. 2018-01-10. 
  4. ^ Allmusic
  5. ^ Allmusic

External links[edit]