As a child, Bell played piano, and learned brass instruments in high school. He attended Xavier University, where he began playing bass, and graduated in 1942; following this he joined the Navy, completing his service in 1946. He was a member of Andy Kirk's band in 1946 but enrolled at NYU in 1947. After completing a master's degree he joined Lucky Millinder's band and then gigged with Teddy Wilson.
In the 1950s, Bell appeared on Billie Holiday's album Lady Sings the Blues and with Lester Young, Stan Kenton, Johnny Hodges, Cab Calloway, Carmen McRae, and Dick Haymes. In 1960 he left Hayes' band after being offered a position in the Duke Ellington Orchestra, opposite drummer Sam Woodyard. He left in 1962, spending time with Dizzy Gillespie before taking jobs on Broadway as a pit musician. He and Ellington collaborated once more in 1967, on a tribute to Billy Strayhorn.
Bell held a residence at the La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York City from 1969 to 1972. He also began teaching at Essex College in Newark in 1970, remaining there until 1990. Later in the 1970s he toured with Norris Turney, Harold Ashby, and Cat Anderson; in the 1980s he returned to piano playing, and retired from active performance in 1989. He died in 2003.
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With Johnny Griffin
- Soul Groove (Atlantic, 1963)
With Sonny Stitt
With Randy Weston
- Highlife (Colpix, 1963)
Victory at Sea in Jazz; the Aaron Bell Orchestra; Lion Records (Div. of MGM)Recorded in the late '50's