41 Facts About Wynton Kelly


Wynton Charles Kelly was an American jazz pianist and composer.


Wynton Kelly is known for his lively, blues-based playing and as one of the finest accompanists in jazz.


Wynton Kelly's recording debut as a leader occurred three years later, around the time he started to become better known as an accompanist to singer Dinah Washington, and as a member of trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie's band.


Wynton Kelly attracted the most attention as part of Miles Davis' band from 1959, including an appearance on the trumpeter's Kind of Blue, the best-selling jazz album ever.


Wynton Kelly's career did not develop much further, and he had difficulty finding enough work late in his career.


Wynton Kelly, who was known to have epilepsy, died in a hotel room in Canada following a seizure, aged 39.


The son of Jamaican immigrants, Wynton Kelly was born in Brooklyn, New York, on December 2,1931.


Wynton Kelly began playing the piano at the age of four, but did not receive much formal training in music.


Material from sessions on July 25 and August 1,1951, formed Piano Interpretations, a trio album that was Wynton Kelly's recording debut as leader, released by Blue Note Records later that year.


Wynton Kelly became better known after joining vocalist Dinah Washington's band in 1951.


Wynton Kelly recruited fellow draftee and future jazz pianist Duke Pearson into the show; together they were able to convince their unit to involve more black musicians, as they were initially the only two out of around two dozen performers.


Wynton Kelly ended his military service with a music performance for an audience of 10,000 in the Chastain Memorial Park Amphitheater in Atlanta.


Wynton Kelly was released from the military after two years, following which he worked on and off with Washington and Gillespie again.


Wynton Kelly was part of Charles Mingus' group for a tour of Washington, DC, California, and Vancouver in late 1956 to early 1957.


Wynton Kelly left Mingus to rejoin Gillespie, who led a big band that toured Canada and the southern United States.


Wynton Kelly was much in demand as a sideman for recordings and appeared on albums by most of the major jazz leaders in the late 1950s and early 1960s.


The recording sessions continued four days later, with Wynton Kelly joining Blakey, Morgan and others on Griffin's A Blowin' Session; this was followed by three studio days for Gillespie, and another for trumpeter Clark Terry, before the end of the month.


Early in 1958, Wynton Kelly recorded his second album as a leader, the quartet Piano, more than six years after his first.


Wynton Kelly played organ on one track of Pepper Adams and Jimmy Knepper's The Pepper-Knepper Quintet, an unusual departure from his usual instrument.


On Kind of Blue, often mentioned as the best-selling jazz album ever, Wynton Kelly played on the track "Freddie Freeloader".


Wynton Kelly toured 22 cities in Europe as part of Davis' quintet in the spring of 1960.


Davis often left considerable time between band engagements, which allowed the musicians to do other work, so Wynton Kelly continued to record with other leaders, including with other members of the Davis band.


In February 1959, when in Chicago for performances with Davis, Wynton Kelly was pianist on Cannonball Adderley Quintet in Chicago, and bassist Chambers' Go.


Later that year, Wynton Kelly made his first album for Vee-Jay Records, in a quintet containing Wayne Shorter; Wynton Kelly returned the favor a few months later by playing on the saxophonist's debut as leader, Introducing Wayne Shorter.


Wynton Kelly recorded with Coltrane, including for one track, "Naima", from the saxophonist's Giant Steps.


Wynton Kelly made his first recording with guitarist Wes Montgomery in 1961; they then made Full House the next year; the pairing was described by The Penguin Guide to Jazz as "an association that promised a lot and delivered more".


Towards the end of his career, Wynton Kelly had problems finding work, but played with Ray Nance, and as a soloist in New York.


Wynton Kelly's final recording session appears to have been in the autumn of 1970, accompanying saxophonist Dexter Gordon.


Wynton Kelly died in Toronto, Canada, following an epileptic seizure, on April 12,1971.


Wynton Kelly had traveled there from New York to play in a club with drummer George Reed and vocalist Herb Marshall.


Wynton Kelly had a longstanding epilepsy problem and had to monitor his condition carefully.


Wynton Kelly was reported to have had almost no money at the time of his death.


Wynton Kelly was a heavy drinker; saxophonist Jimmy Heath described him as "an alcoholic" who "could control his drinking" and not let his playing be affected by it.


Wynton Kelly was known "for being a very warm, generous human being".


Wynton Kelly played "with a crisp, leaping rhythmic blues approach that generated intense excitement", wrote The Washington Posts obituarist.


The Rough Guide to Jazz stated that Wynton Kelly "combined boppish lines and bluesy interpolations, but with a taut sense of timing quite unlike anyone else except his many imitators", and highlighted the effectiveness of his block chords in contributing to a "dynamic and driving accompanying style".


Wynton Kelly was an excellent sight reader, and could memorize parts very quickly, as well as play pieces he had heard but not read before.


Wynton Kelly was never able to exploit his gifts when he went out on his own.


Writer David Rosenthal commented: "Wynton Kelly seemed unable to escape being typecast as a sideman".


Pamies suggested that Wynton Kelly's comping had a direct influence on Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner.


The trumpeter Wynton Marsalis was born on 1961 and was named after Kelly.