Ellis Larkins' elegant piano playing was once described as a rainbow of interwoven musical textures. He created an intimate palette of sound which brought out the best in his partners �” Ella Fitzgerald, Coleman Hawkins, Joe Pass and Ruby Braff among them. Braff, who recorded with Larkins in the 1950s, recalled, “[His] playing was so beautiful �” a complete orchestra by itself.”
Yet Larkins was also an understated and unselfish performer. He rarely, if ever, sought the spotlight. He stressed the importance of musical patience, and of adhering to a song's melody.
Ellis Lane Larkins was born in Baltimore, Md., on May 15, 1923. Both of his parents were classical musicians. His father, a violinist, started his son on piano lessons at the age of 4. Larkins practiced for two hours each day and progressed quickly, eventually joining his father in performances with a local black orchestra.