Although he didn't record enough through the years, Ed Kelly was a legendary name and an important force in Oakland, California and the San Francisco Bay Area. He first played piano in his father's church in Texas and his roots were in gospel music. After his parents moved to Oakland when he was eight, Kelly became more involved in jazz. Other than spending a period based in Fort Devens, Massachusetts when he was in the Army, Kelly spent his life around the Oakland area. A professor of music at Laney College for over 25 years, he conducted jazz camps and among his students was tenor saxophonist Robert Stewart. Kelly had opportunities to perform with Nat Adderley, Jimmy Witherspoon, Sonny Stitt, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Milt Jackson, Dexter Gordon, and Abbey Lincoln, among many others, when they appeared in Northern California. He also recorded with violinist Michael White, Bruce Forman, and singer Sugar Pie DeSanto and led sessions of his own for Theresa, including a collaboration with Pharoah Sanders in 1981 that was later reissued on CD (with additional material) by Evidence. In the early 2000s Kelly suffered a stroke that affected his ability to play; he died several years later in February 2005 at the age of 69.
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