Wynton Kelly

Wynton Kelly

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April 12, 1971 (Age 39) died

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December 2, 1931 Birthday

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New York, New York, U.S. Birthplace

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Wynton Kelly was one of the 20th century's best loved jazz pianists. He was a sought after sideman and appears on over 120 recordings with artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Dinah Washington, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane and, perhaps most notably, Miles Davis. Kelly played in Davis' band from 1959 to 1963. After leaving Davis, he formed his own trio with Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb. The three musicians recorded together until Kelly's unexpected death at the age of 39.


Wynton Kelly's first professional recording was on Hal Singer's 1948 Billboard hit, "Cornbread." He was drafted into the army in 1952 and served as the musical director of the Third Army Traveling Show. He earned his place in Miles Davis' band when the regular pianist showed up late to a gig and Kelly was asked to sit in.

Early Life

Wynton Kelly was born in New York to Jamaican parents in 1931. He began playing the piano at age 4 but had little formal training. At age 12 he began playing with several R&B bands and working as an organist for local churches. Kelly toured the Caribbean with Ray Abrams' R&B band at age 15 and made his first professional recording at age 16. After joining Dinah Washington's band in 1951 Kelly began to become well known and was soon playing with Lester Young and Dizzy Gillespie.