Walter Bishop Jr.

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

Walter Bishop Jr.
Background information
Also known asIbrahim ibn Ismail
Born(1927-10-04)October 4, 1927
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedJanuary 24, 1998(1998-01-24) (aged 70)
New York City
Years active1940s–1990s
LabelsBlack Lion, Prestige, Xanadu, Black Jazz, Muse, East Wind, Pony Canyon, Red, DIW
Associated actsMilt Jackson, Stan Getz, Charlie Parker, Oscar Pettiford, Kai Winding, Miles Davis

Early life

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

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) after divorcing Bishop in the mid-70s, Valerie Bishop worked as an assistant for Ike and Tina Turner in California. Valerie Bishop is the person who is cited in the Tina Turner memoir "I, Tina" as the person who inspired Tina Turner to pursue Buddhism.

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 jazz 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

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

Year recorded Title Label Personnel/Notes
1961 Speak Low Jazztime Trio, with Jimmy Garrison (bass), G.T. Hogan (drums); also released by Black Lion as Milestones
1962 A Pair of "Naturals" Operators Trio, with Butch Warren (bass), G.T. Hogan (drums); LP shared with Peter Yorke Orchestra
1963 Summertime Cotillion Trio, with Butch Warren (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums)
1964–68 Bish Bash Xanadu Some tracks trio, with Eddie Khan (bass), Dick Berk (drums); some tracks quartet, with Frank Haynes (tenor sax) added; some tracks trio with Reggie Johnson (bass), Idris Muhammad (drums)
1971 Coral Keys Black Jazz Most tracks quartet, with Harold Vick (flute, soprano sax, tenor sax), Reggie Johnson (bass), Alan Shwaetz Benger and Idris Muhammad (drums; separately); some tracks quintet, with Woody Shaw (trumpet) added
1973 Keeper of My Soul Black Jazz With Ronnie Laws (flute, sax), Woody Murray (vibraphone), Gerald Brown (bass, electric bass), Bahir Hassan (drums), Shakur M. Abdulla (congas, bongos)
1974 Valley Land Muse Trio, with Sam Jones (bass), Billy Hart (drums)
1975 Soliloquy Seabreeze Solo piano
1976 Old Folks East Wind Trio, with Sam Jones (bass) Billy Higgins (drums)
1977 Soul Village Muse With Randy Brecker (trumpet, flugelhorn), George Young (soprano sax, alto sax), Gerry Niewood (tenor sax, flute), Steve Khan (guitar), Mark Egan (bass), Ed Soph (drums), Victoria (congas, percussion)
1977–78 Hot House Muse Some tracks trio, with Sam Jones (bass), Al Foster (drums); some tracks quintet, with Bill Hardman (trumpet), Junior Cook (tenor sax) added; released 1979
1978 Cubicle Muse With Randy Brecker (trumpet, flugelhorn), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Rene McLean (soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax), Pepper Adams (baritone sax), Joe Caro (guitar), Bob Cranshaw (Fender bass), Billy Hart (drums), Ray Mantilla (percussion); Mark Egan (Fender bass), Carmen Lundy (vocals) added for one or two tracks
1978 The Trio with Billy Hart, George Mraz
1988 Just in Time Interplay Trio, with Paul Brown (bass), Walter Bolden (drums)
1989 Ode to Bird Interplay Trio, with Paul Brown (bass), Walter Bolden (drums)
1990 What's New DIW Trio, with Peter Washington (bass), Kenny Washington (drums)
1991 Midnight Blue Red Trio, with Reggie Johnson (bass), Doug Sides (drums)
1993 Speak Low Again Venus Trio, with Paul Brown (bass), Al Harewood (drums)[3]


As sideman

With Gene Ammons

With Shorty Baker and Doc Cheatham

With Art Blakey

With Rocky Boyd

With Miles Davis

With Kenny Dorham

With Curtis Fuller

With John Handy

  • Jazz (Roulette, 1962)

With Bill Hardman

With Milt Jackson

With Ken McIntyre

With Jackie McLean

With Blue Mitchell

With Hank Mobley

With Charlie Parker

  • Swedish Schnapps (Verve 1951) side 2
  • Fiesta (Verve 1952)
  • Charlie Parker Plays Cole Porter (Verve 1954)

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. 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. Ratliff, Ben (29 January 1998). "Walter Bishop Jr., 70, Jazz Pianist Who Rode Be-Bop's First Wave". Retrieved 9 November 2019.
  3. Allmusic
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