Happy birthday to the underrated bop pianist Walter Davis Jr. Lifelong close friends with Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie and Bud Powell, he was a session pianist of great soulful taste.
From Richmond VA, he played as a teenager with Babs Gonzales and got a big gig at the Apollo with Charlie Parker in '49, quitting high school to go on the road with him. He moved to NYC in '50 and made his first recordings with the Max Roach group.
He toured South America & the Middle East with Gillespie in '56, and would play with Diz off and on for the rest of his life. He cut his first album as a leader, Davis Cup, for Blue Note in '59. He played with Art Blakey, Melba Liston, Donald Byrd, Miles Davis, Sonny Criss, Teddy Edwards, Sonny Rollins, Jackie McLean, Archie Shepp and many more.
After temporarily retiring to be a tailor, he returned in the '70s to become Blakey's in-house arranger/composer. In the '80s he worked with the Marsalis brothers, Charlie Rouse, played solo concerts and led groups featuring Carter Jefferson, while keeping busy with some movie & tv work (he contributed to the Bird soundtrack and even had a character role on the sitcom Frank's Place). He died of diabetes at 57.