All About Jazz

Home » Musicians » Ellis Larkins

Ellis Larkins

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.

Larkins was the first black student admitted to Baltimore's prestigious Peabody Conservatory of Music, and went from there to the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. To meet expenses, he began playing evening studio sessions, drawing on his classical technique to play jazz and popular music.

Soon, Larkins became a prominent fixture on the Manhattan nightclub scene, playing regularly at Cafe Society, the Blue Angel and the Village Vanguard. His solo performances at the Carnegie Tavern, below Carnegie Hall, became a New York institution. Sometimes, Larkins led a trio, but most often he accompanied singers, including Herb Jeffries, Joe Williams, Anita Ellis and Mildred Bailey.

Read more

Tags

Photos

Albums

Smooth One : The...

Unknown label
2002

buy

Ellis Larkins

Henceforth Records
1981

buy

A Smooth One

Henceforth Records
1979

buy

Manhatan At Midnight

Henceforth Records
1961

buy

Watch

Similar

Shop Amazon

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.