How To Play Like Wynton Kelly
In this lesson we will take a look at one of my favorite pianists in jazz, Wynton Kelly. He is known for his very distinct eighth notes and bluesy but at the same time very modern approach. He is also considered to be one of the greatest accompanists, his comping is definitely worth studying.
For this lesson we will explore the first solo on a blues called Pfrancing, from the 1961 Miles Davis record Someday My Prince Will Come. This solo shows his bluesy simplicity as well some more modern choices and it is also an excellent example of his eight notes and time feel. Learn this solo by heart and play it with the record as close to the original as possible, it will help you to improve your time feel and groove.
Wynton Kelly Transcription Assignments
Be sure to check out the Wynton Kelly Transcription Exercises in the PianoGroove Community Area.
Wynton Kelly was born on December 2nd, 1931 in Brooklyn, New York, and died April 12th, 1971 in Toronto, Canada. Early in his career he worked with Dinah Washington and Dizzy Gillespie and, after 2 years in the army, he worked with many other notable bandleaders including Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, John Coltrane, Roland Kirk, Wes Montgomery and Sonny Rollins, as well as vocalists Betty Carter, Billie Holiday, and Abbey Lincoln.
Work With Miles Davis
In 1959 he joined Miles Davis’ band. This band was between the two main quintets Miles had, working only for short period of time, but for my opinion this band and the rhythm section is one of the most important and ground breaking bands in the history of jazz. They recorded several great albums and you can also hear Wynton Kelly on the famous Miles record Kind Of Blue.
The Wynton Kelly Trio
After leaving Miles, Kelly continued to work with the same trio that he had played with in Miles’ band: Paul Chambers on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums. He also continued working as a sideman, recording numerous great albums with different leaders, for example Hank Mobley, Blue Mitchell, Joe Henderson and Wes Montgomery.
As a leader:
- Kelly at Midnight
- Kelly Blue
As a sideman:
- Hank Mobley – Soul Station
- Miles Davis – Someday My Prince Will Come
- Joe Henderson – Four
- Wes Montgomery – Smokin At The Half Note
- Johnny Griffin – Introducing Johnny Griffin