Ellis Larkins

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

Larkins was the first African American to attend the Peabody Conservatory of Music, a well-known institute in Baltimore. He began his professional playing career in New York City after moving there to attend the Juilliard School. Following school Larkins performed jazz piano with Billy Moore and Edmond Hall. He recorded with Coleman Hawkins, Mildred Bailey, and Dicky Wells in the 1940s. In the 1950s he recorded with Ella Fitzgerald, Ruby Braff, and Beverly Kenney. His 1960s work included recordings or performances with Eartha Kitt, Joe Williams, Helen Humes, 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.

Select discography


  • Lost in the Wood (Stanyan)
  • Manhattan at Midnight (Decca, 1956)
  • Blue and Sentimental (Decca, 1958)
  • Live at Maybeck Recital Hall (Concord Jazz, 1992)

With Ruby Braff

  • Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins: Calling Berlin, Vol. 1 (Arbors)
  • Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins: Calling Berlin, Vol. 2 (Arbors)
  • Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins: 2 Part Inventions in Jazz, (Vanguard/Pye)
  • Ellis Larkins & Ruby Braff: Duets Volume 1, (Vanguard)
  • Ellis Larkins & Ruby Braff: Duets Volume 2, (Vanguard)

With Ella Fitzgerald

  • Ella Sings Gershwin (Decca, 1950)
  • Songs in a Mellow Mood (Decca, 1954)
  • "You Turned the Tables on Me", "Nice Work If You Can Get It","'I've Got a Crush on You" on Newport Jazz Festival: Live at Carnegie Hall (Pablo, 1973)

With Sonny Stitt

  • What's New!!! (Roulette, 1966)
  • I Keep Comin' Back! (Roulette, 1966)

With Anita Kert Ellis

  • A Legend Sings (Red Onion, 1979)

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