Ed Kelly Day

October 04, 1935 – February 04, 2005


A birthday tribute to the pianist and educator

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Ed Kelly was born Oct. 4, 1935 in Wharton, Texas, growing up in Oakland.

He started playing piano as a young teenager (performing in his father’s church) and studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, University of the Pacific, and Berklee College of Music.

Kelly began a 27-year period as a professor of music at Laney College in Oakland in the mid-1970s, becoming an important mentor for quite a few young musicians including Michele Rosewoman.

Ed Kelly could have gained more fame if he had moved to New York but instead he chose to raise his family in Oakland.

He worked regularly in the Bay area as a jazz and gospel musician, playing with such notables as John Handy, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Bobby Hutcherson, Bobby McFerrin and Pharoah Sanders, recording with Smiley Winters, Michael White, Art Pepper, Sonny Stitt, Bruce Forman (on organ), and Robert Stewart, plus three albums as a leader.

Here is Ed Kelly playing his own inventive version of Thelonious Monk’s “Well You Needn’t,” at first solo and then with bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath, displaying his very original style.

-Scott Yanow


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