WUSF All Night Jazz Focus Artist of the Week: Wynton Kelly

This week on All Night Jazz, we’ll focus on pianist Wynton Kelly. Born in Brooklyn, New York, on December 2, 1931, Kelly is best known for his association with the legendary Miles Davis.

Kelly got an early start, touring at age 15, and making his first recording at 16. He worked with trumpeter “Hot Lips” Page and saxophonist Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson starting in 1948 and debuted on the Blue Note record label in 1951.

He built his reputation as a crisp and swinging pianist working with singer Dinah Washington and, later, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.

Kelly recorded with Billie Holiday on her original version of “Lady Sings the Blues.” He also recorded with saxophonists Johnny Griffin and Sonny Rollins. It was Kelly’s work with Gillespie, however,  that caught the interest of trumpet icon Miles Davis. On a club date when Miles’ regular pianist was late, Kelly got the gig. He stayed with Miles from 1959 until 1963 and appeared on the renowned “Kind of Blue” recording.  Kelly is the cousin of both pianist Randy Weston and bassist Marcus Miller.

Kelly passed away from complications from epilepsy in 1971.

We’ll hear the soulful piano of Wynton Kelly all this week on All Night Jazz.