Wynton Kelly


Kelly Blue

  • Release Date: 07 Apr 1989
  • OJCCD-033-2

On one subject at least, the varied musicians in the forefront of the East Coast jazz scene of the Fifties--Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, Dizzy Gillespie, and the like--were usually in full agreement. For them, the world's strongest and most supportive piano accompanist was, without doubt, Wynton Kelly. Perhaps the best of his relatively few chances in the spotlight is this date on which he is so warmly supported by such as Benny Golson, Nat Adderley, and Paul Chambers.

with Na… MORE


Having played on dozens of other people's records in the 1950s, pianist Wynton Kelly in early 1958 went into the studio as a leader for the first… More



Wynton Kelly


The favorite accompanist of such musicians as Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderley, pianist Wynton Kelly (1931-1971) found his own distinctive voice in the bop and hard-bop worlds. Born in Jamaica, he grew up in Brooklyn and was a professional musician by the time he was a young teenager. Kelly played r&b with Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Hal Singer, and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, recorded as a leader as early as 1951, and had stints with Dinah Washington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Lester Young. Although a period in the military interrupted his career, in 1955 Kelly was back, spending two years as Dinah Washington’s accompanist. He also worked with Charles Mingus and the Dizzy Gillespie big band. In 1959 Kelly replaced Bill Evans with the Miles Davis Sextet, a position that he held for four years.

Piano features Kelly a year before he joined Davis but already interacting with the trumpeter’s sidemen bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones, in addition to guitarist Kenny Burrell. The pianist’s light swinging style and soulful approach is very much in evidence. Kelly Blue, from 1959, has Kelly, Chambers, and drummer Jimmy Cobb as the core group. Cornetist Nat Adderley and flutist Bobby Jaspar expand the group on a few numbers. In listening to these Riverside projects, one can hear where today’s pianist Benny Green gained some of his original inspiration.

After leaving Miles Davis in 1963, Kelly formed a trio with Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb, his main group for the remainder of his life. The Wynton Kelly Trio sounded especially in prime form while backing guitarist Wes Montgomery for some classic performances.

The group, with Ron McClure on bass, is in fine shape on Kelly’s lone Milestone recording, Full View, from 1967. Listening to this swinging hard-bop music, it is difficult to believe that Wynton Kelly would pass away less than four years later when he was just 39.