September 18, 1924|
New York City, US
|Died||May 25, 1988
Los Angeles, US
|Occupation(s)||Music producer, club manager, television Producer|
|Associated acts||Miles Davis, Herbie Mann, Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, Modern Jazz Quartet, Flip Wilson|
On the New York jazz scene in the late 1940s and 1950s, he acted as a talent scout and as the musical director of several night clubs. According to some accounts, during those years he would sometimes introduce himself as a fair-skinned Afro-American. As the artistic director of the Royal Roost (a jazz venue on 52nd Street) he succeeded in persuading the owner, Ralph Watkins, to hire Miles Davis' nonet - sometimes called the "Tuba Band" - with which Davis was pursuing a project that later was to be called Birth of the Cool, and which started the cool jazz movement. Kay befriended Davis and, during his later marriage to singer/actress Diahann Carroll, was for a time Miles' neighbor.
In 1949 he founded the jazz club Birdland (later,he would also open another jazz club, Le Downbeat in Chicago). During the 1950s, Kay produced several musicians, including Herbie Mann, Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins and the Modern Jazz Quartet. In the same period he married (1956–1963) Singer/actress Diahann Carroll. Their daughter, Suzanne Kay Bamford, is a journalist and television author.
In 1963, Kay became the manager of the comedian Flip Wilson. The two formed the record label Little David Records, which featured comedy albums by Wilson, George Carlin and others. Kay was executive producer of the TV show The Flip Wilson Show.
Kay died of heart failure in Los Angeles.