Remembering Calvin Keys

February 6, 1942 – April 14, 2024

A tribute to the bluesy guitarist

Guitarist Calvin Keys passed away on Apr. 14, 2024 at the age of 81.

He was born Feb. 6, 1943 in Omaha, Nebraska.

Keys learned guitar as a youth, sat in at jam sessions and, after moving to Kansas City with his family, he began touring as a teenager.

He worked in the trios of organists Jimmy McGriff and Jimmy Smith, had a 15-year association with Ray Charles, and for the Black Jazz label in the early 1970s led the albums Shawn-Neeq and Procced with Caution.

Keys moved to the San Francisco Bay area in 1975, spent six years touring and recording with Ahmad Jamal, and turned down a possible gig with Miles Davis to stick with Jamal.

Keys also worked and/or recorded with Donald Byrd, Lou Donaldson, John Handy, Gene Russell, Doug Carn, Bobby Hutcherson, Tony Bennett, Earl Hines, Joe Henderson, Carmen McRae, Sonny Stitt, Pharoah Sanders, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Eddie Henderson, Stanley Turrentine, Buford Powers, Phil Ranelin, Gloria Coleman, and Henry Franklin, and led 16 albums of his own during 1971-2022..

Calvin Keys was also a teacher at the Oakland Public Conservatory and taught privately.

He is featured with his trio playing a relaxed and unhurried version of “I’ll Remember April” from 2006,

-Scott Yanow