The Vinyl Junkie
All jazz fans: If you’ve never heard of Wynton Kelly, you need to listen to him. He remains one of the most unheralded pianists of the 1960s and rates with such luminaries as Horace Silver and Hank Jones.
Born in New York City to Jamaican immigrants, Kelly started to play professionally at the age of twelve and by sixteen had earned his first R&B hit, Hal Singer’s 1948 “Cornbread.” After working with Eddie Lockjaw Davis and Hot Lips Page, in 1951 the pianist released his first album as a leader on Blue Note Records. It’s the impossible-to-find “Piano Interpretations.”
After a two-year stint in the army, Kelly came back to the scene to play with bop masters Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Johnny Griffin and many others. He served as the consummate back-up player to greats such as Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday and released his second album as a leader in 1958 for Riverside, simply called “Piano.”
In 1959, Kelly signed with Miles Davis and became part of jazz history by playing on a selection of the record, “Kind of Blue,” which also featured Jimmy Cobb, John Coltrane, bass player Paul Chambers and Cannonball Adderley. He stayed with Davis until 1963. Simultaneously, he signed with Vee-Jay Records and released four classic albums. In addition, he served as the pianist on classic Cannonball Adderley albums such as “Cannonball Takes Charge” and Coltrane’s essential “Giant Steps” and “Coltrane Jazz.”
Once he finished with his Vee-Jay contract and split from Miles, Kelly signed to Verve. The pianist cut a total of six records for the label until 1968, when he stopped recording. Two years later, Wynton unexpectedly passed away in Toronto, where he had traveled for a gig.
Silver Platters has a rare but again totally under-priced record from Kelly, his third Verve release, which seldom surfaces anywhere. Called “Undiluted,” this record features the Miles Davis rhythm section of bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb with a few added artists on side two.
Released in 1965, the record finds Kelly at the height of his powers, playing a soulful, blues-based piano jazz. It contains such gems as “Bobo,” “My Ship,” and “Out Front.” It has the label number, F-8622, an original pressing.
Give yourself a treat, and pick up this Wynton Kelly masterpiece. Sit back and let the blues wash over you.
Dr. Dave Szatmary
Rockin’ In Time