On this day in 1931 jazz pianist Wynton Kelly was born in Jamaica. According to Wikipedia Wynton is maybe best know for the years he spent working with Miles Davis from 1959 to 1962. While that may be true for many listeners it’s not for me. I remember Wynton as a sideman for Wes Montgomery. If Jimmy Smith and Wes were the Dynamic Duo. Wynton and Wes were the Dynamic Duo 2 in my eyes and ears!!
The son of Jamaican immigrants, Kelly was born in Brooklyn, New York. He started his professional career in 1943, initially as a member of R&B groups. Around this time he also played organ in local churches. R&B bands that he played with up to 1951 included those led by Ray Abrams, Hot Lips Page, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. Kelly became better known after joining Dinah Washington’s band in 1951, going on to record 14 titles for Blue Note in his trio in the same year. After this he played with bands led by Lester Young and Dizzy Gillespie, recording with the latter in 1952. Kelly was drafted into the army in September 1952, and stayed for two years, ending that period with a music performance for an audience of 10,000 in the Chastain Memorial Park Amphitheater in Atlanta, Georgia. After leaving the military, Kelly worked with Washington again (1955–1957), Charles Mingus (1956–1957), and the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band (1957), before leaving Gillespie and forming his own trio, which then recorded the second album under Kelly’s name, more than six years after the first…. Continue Reading
and to be put in the you learn something new every day category, I never knew how he died…..
Kelly died in Toronto, Canada, from an epileptic seizure, on April 12, 1971. He had travelled there from New York to play in a club with drummer George Reed and vocalist Herb Marshall. Kelly had a longstanding epilepsy problem, and had to monitor his condition to avoid the danger of swallowing his tongue or dentures as the result of a seizure. An account of his death was given by his friend, Jimmy Cobb: “Wynton called his girlfriend in New York and said, ‘You know, I don’t feel good.’ She said, ‘Why don’t you go downstairs to the bar and if something happens somebody could tend to you.’ We don’t know if he did that, because when they found him he was in the room.” Kelly was found in his room in the Westminster Hotel on Jarvis Street by Herb Marshall. He was reported to have had almost no money at the time of his death
and back to Wynton and his music…from All About Jazz
When he left Davis, Kelly took the rest of the rhythm section (bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb) with him to form his trio. The group actually sounded at its best backing Wes Montgomery.
A statement I obviously agree with!!! Oh and another tidbit of trivia…Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis is said to have been named after Kelly! You can read more about Wynton Kelly here at the Concord Music Group Here’s Wynton and Wes Smokin’ at the Half Note with “Four on Six” Hope you Guys are celebrating Wynton’s birthday where ever you are!!