Don Abney

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Don Abney
BornMarch 10, 1923
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
DiedJanuary 20, 2000(2000-01-20) (aged 76)
Los Angeles, California

John Donald "Don" Abney (March 10, 1923 – January 20, 2000) was an American jazz pianist.

Early life[edit]

Abney was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He studied piano and french horn at the Manhattan School of Music, and he played the latter in an Army band during military service.[1]

Later life and career[edit]

After returning from the army he played in ensembles with Wilbur de Paris, Bill Harris, Kai Winding, Chuck Wayne, Sy Oliver, and Louis Bellson.[2] He had a sustained career as a session musician, playing on recordings for Louis Armstrong, Benny Carter, Oscar Pettiford, Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan, Eartha Kitt, and Pearl Bailey. He also played on a large number of recordings for more minor musicians and on R&B, pop, rock, and doo wop releases.

After moving to Hollywood, he worked as musical director for Universal Studios/MCA. He appeared as a pianist in the film Pete Kelly's Blues behind Ella Fitzgerald. Additional credits include recording and arrangements for the film Lady Sings the Blues. He toured with Anita O'Day in the 1980s. Early in the 1990s he moved to Japan and toured there with considerable success, playing weekly at the Sanno Hotel in Tokyo. Upon his return to the United States in 2000, he died of complications from kidney dialysis, in Los Angeles, California. He was interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery, in Burbank, CA. He is survived by 5 children.


As sideman[edit]

With Ella Fitzgerald

  • Ella at Zardi's (Verve, 2017)

With Louis Bellson

With Benny Carter

With Harry Edison

With Carmen McRae

With Oscar Pettiford

With Al Sears

With Carol Sloane


  1. ^ Feather, Leonard; Gitler, Ira (2007). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz. Oxford University Press, USA. p. ___. ISBN 9780195320008. Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  2. ^ Jaffe, Andrew; Kernfeld, Barry (2002). "Abney, (John) Don(ald)". In Barry Kernfeld (ed.). The new Grove dictionary of jazz (2nd ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries Inc. p. 5. ISBN 1561592846.