One of the most expressive pianists of his generation, Wynton Kelly’s greatest album was his 1951 debut, recorded when he was only 19-years-old. Along with a notable career as a sideman, Kelly also performed on Miles Davis’ seminal Kind of Blue.
- Piano Interpretations (1951) A
- Piano (1958) B+
- Wynton Kelly’s first LP since 1951’s masterful Piano Interpretations — simply titled Piano — isn’t the anticipated classic you’d expect. In fact, if it weren’t for the guitar flourishes of Kenny Burrell, the drum heroics of Philly Joe Jones, or the occasional one-of-a-kind hook that only Kelly can deliver, the album would be boring.
- Kelly Blue (1959) B+
- What made Wynton Kelly’s 1951 debut, Piano Interpretations, such a masterpiece was its lush, emotional, downtempo moods. After stints with Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus and the U.S. Army, Kelly returned in 1958 with an up-tempo brand of bop that somewhat shrouded his soulful expressionism. Case in point: devoid of energy, you’d never guess that Kelly Blue was recorded live.
- Kelly Great (1959) B+
- Kelly Great closes with “Sydney,” a haunting ballad that only Wayne Shorter could have dreamed up. It’s one of Wynton Kelly’s greatest moments as bandleader. Elsewhere, Kelly Great taps into the pianist’s misterioso aesthetic via Lee Morgan’s trance-like trumpet. The strong supporting cast helps make this a very worthwhile LP.