Ellis Larkins

Ellis Larkins (May 15, 1923[1] – September 30, 2002)[2] was an American jazz pianist born in Baltimore, Maryland, known for his two recordings with Ella Fitzgerald: the albums Ella Sings Gershwin (1950) and Songs in a Mellow Mood (1954).[3] He was also the pianist on the first solo sides by singer Chris Connor on her album Chris (1954).

Ellis Larkins
Born(1923-05-15)May 15, 1923
OriginBaltimore, Maryland, U.S.
DiedSeptember 30, 2002(2002-09-30) (aged 79)
Associated actsElla Fitzgerald, Ruby Braff, Eartha Kitt, Chris Connor, Beverly Kenney

Larkins was the first African American to attend the Peabody Conservatory of Music, an institute in Baltimore. He began his professional playing career in New York City after moving there to attend the Juilliard School.[1] While still at Juilliard, Larkins performed jazz piano with guitarist Billy Moore at Café Society Uptown and over the next ten years in his own groups, or in support of, clarinetist Edmond Hall and singers Helen Humes and Mildred Bailey.[4] He recorded with Coleman Hawkins, and Dicky Wells in the 1940s. In the 1950s, he recorded with Ella Fitzgerald, Ruby Braff, and Beverly Kenney.[1] His 1960s work included recordings or performances with Eartha Kitt, Joe Williams, Georgia Gibbs and Harry Belafonte.

Though he was best known as an accompanist, Larkins recorded several solo albums in the 1950s. In the 1970s, he performed regularly at several New York venues, including Gregory's, a small bar on the Upper East Side.


As leaderEdit

Year recorded Title Label Notes
1952 Blues in the Night Decca Solo piano; DL 5391, subtitled The Melodies of Harold Arlen
1954 Perfume and Rain Storyville Solo piano[5]
1956 Do Nothin’ ‘Til You Hear From Me Storyville Duo with Beverly Peer (bass)[6]
1956 Manhattan at Midnight Decca Trio, with Art Ryerson (guitar), Beverly Peer (bass)[7]
1958 Blue and Sentimental Decca Some tracks duo, with Joe Benjamin (bass); some tracks quartet[7]
1970 Lost in the Wood Stanyan Trio, with Al McKibbon (bass), Panama Francis (drums)
1977 A Smooth One Black & Blue Trio, with George Duvivier (bass), J. C. Heard (drums)[8]
1990 Ellis Larkins DGTL Some tracks solo piano; some tracks trio, with Bill Popp (bass), Jackie Williams (drums)[9]
1992 Ellis Larkins at Maybeck Concord Jazz Solo piano; in concert[10]

As sidemanEdit

With Ruby Braff

  • Ellis Larkins & Ruby Braff: Duets Volume 1, (Vanguard, 1955 [1991])
  • Ellis Larkins & Ruby Braff: Duets Volume 2, (Vanguard, 1955 [2000])
  • Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins: 2 Part Inventions in Jazz, (Vanguard, 10-inch LP, 1955) – reissued as Ruby Braff/Ellis Larkins: Pocket Full of Dreams, (Vanguard, 1957) & on the Duets CDs
  • Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins: The Grand Reunion, (Chiaroscuro, 1972) – CD reissue, 1999
  • Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins: Calling Berlin, Vol. 1 (Arbors, 1994 [1995])
  • Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins: Calling Berlin, Vol. 2 (Arbors, 1994 [1996])

With Anita Kert Ellis

  • A Legend Sings (Red Onion, 1979)

With Ella Fitzgerald

With Sonny Stitt

With Joe Williams

  • That Holiday Feelin (Verve, 1990)


  1. ^ a b c Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 1431. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  2. ^ "Obituary: Ellis Larkins". The Guardian. 4 October 2002. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  3. ^ "Jazz Profiles – Ellis Larkins". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2021-06-16.
  4. ^ Keepnews, Peter (October 3, 2002). "Ellis Larkins, 79, Jazz Pianist Of Sensitive and Elegant Style". The New York Times. Retrieved May 3, 2021.
  5. ^ Dryden, Ken. "Ellis Larkins: Perfume and Rain". AllMusic. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
  6. ^ "Ellis Larkins – Do Nothin' 'Til You Hear From Me (1956, Vinyl)". Discogs.com. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  7. ^ a b Yanow, Scott. "Ellis Larkins: Manhattan at Midnight". AllMusic. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
  8. ^ Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (2008). The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (9th ed.). Penguin. p. 866. ISBN 978-0-141-03401-0.
  9. ^ Dryden, Ken. "Ellis Larkins: Ellis Larkins". AllMusic. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
  10. ^ Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (1996). The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD (3rd ed.). Penguin. p. 788. ISBN 978-0-14-051368-4.

External linksEdit