Ken Kersey

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Ken Kersey, Café Society, New York City, c. June 1947, photograph by William P. Gottlieb

Ken Kersey (April 3, 1916, Harrow, Ontario – April 1, 1983, New York City) was a Canadian jazz pianist who spent most of his life working in the United States.

Kersey was born into a musical family and studied piano and trumpet while attending the Detroit Institute of Musical Arts. In 1936, Kersey moved to New York City, where he played with Lucky Millinder, Billy Hicks, Frankie Newton, Billie Holiday, Roy Eldridge, Red Allen, Charlie Christian, Benny Goodman, Cootie Williams and was a member of the John Kirby Sextet.

In 1942 he replaced Mary Lou Williams as Andy Kirk's pianist; Kirk recorded his composition "Boogie Woogie Cocktail". He joined the Army from 1943 to 1945, where he played trumpet in military bands, then played from 1946 to 1949 with the Jazz at the Philharmonic touring ensembles. He continued to play with noted musicians through the 1950s, including Eldridge and Allen again, as well as Buck Clayton, Edmond Hall, Sol Yaged, and Charlie Shavers.

Kersey retired from music late in the 1950s after being diagnosed with a bone ailment. He recorded twelve tunes as a bandleader: four for Savoy Records in 1946, two for Clef Records in 1949, two for Circle Records in 1950, and four for Foxy Records in 1951 which featured Hot Lips Page and Paul Quinichette as sidemen.


With Buck Clayton