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Wynton Kelly

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Wynton Kelly (December 2, 1931 – April 12, 1971) was a Jamaican born jazz pianist, who spent his career in the United States.

Son of Jamaican immigrants, Kelly was born in Jamaica, and started his professional career as a teenager, initially as a member of R&B groups. After working with Lee Abrams, Cecil Payne, Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday and Dizzy Gillespie he is perhaps best known for working with trumpeter Miles Davis, he was a member of Miles Davis’s Quintet from 1959 to 1963. He appears on Davis’ seminal 1959 album Kind of Blue, replacing Bill Evans on the track “Freddie Freeloader”. Kelly likewise appears on a single track from John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, replacing Tommy Flanagan on “Naima”.
He recorded 14 titles for Blue Note in a trio (1951), and worked with Dinah Washington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Lester Young during 1951-1952. After serving in the military, Kelly worked with Dinah Washington (1955–1957), Charles Mingus (1956–1957), and the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band (1957), but he would be most famous for his stint with Miles Davis (1959–1963), recording such albums with him as Kind of Blue, At the Blackhawk, and Someday My Prince Will Come. 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.
Kelly recorded as a leader for Blue Note, Riverside Records, Vee-Jay, Verve, and Milestone. Kelly had a daughter, Tracy, in 1963, with partner Anne. The track “Little Tracy”, on the LP Comin’ in the Back Door, is named after Kelly’s daughter. Tracy Matisak is a now a Philadelphia television personality.

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