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Billy Kyle

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William Osborne “Billy” Kyle (July 14, 1914 - February 23, 1966) was an American jazz pianist.

Kyle was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He began playing the piano in school and by the early 1930s worked with Lucky Millinder, and later the Mills Blue Rhythm Band. In 1938, he joined John Kirby’s band, but was drafted in 1942. After the war, he worked with Kirby’s band briefly and also worked with Sy Oliver. He then spent thirteen years as a member of Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars, and performed in the 1956 musical High Society. He is perhaps best known as an accompanist. Kyle died in Youngstown, Ohio.

A fluent pianist with a light touch, Billy Kyle never achieved much fame, but he always worked steadily. A professional from the time he was 18, Kyle played in the big bands of Tiny Bradshaw and Lucky Millinder and then became an important member of the John Kirby Sextet (1938-1942), a perfect vehicle for his style. He was forced to leave the band when he was drafted and, after three years in the military (1942-1945), Kyle freelanced, working fairly often with Sy Oliver. He joined Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars in 1953 and was there for nearly 13 years until his death. His playing with Armstrong, although appealing, tended to be very predictable.

Billy Kyle had few opportunities to record as a leader and none during his Armstrong years; just some octet and septet sides in 1937, two songs with a quartet in 1939, and outings in 1946 with a trio and an octet, 17 songs in all.

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