Connie Kay

Conrad Henry Kirnon (April 27, 1927 – November 30, 1994) known professionally as Connie Kay, was an American jazz and R&B drummer,[1] who was a member of the Modern Jazz Quartet.[2]

Connie Kay
Connie Kay (left) with the Modern Jazz Quartet at Schiphol Airport (1961)
Background information
Birth nameConrad Henry Kirnon
Born(1927-04-27)April 27, 1927
Tuckahoe, New York, U.S.
DiedNovember 30, 1994(1994-11-30) (aged 67)
New York City
InstrumentsDrums, percussion
Associated actsModern Jazz Quartet

Self-taught on drums, he began performing in Los Angeles in the mid-1940s. His drumming is recorded in The Hunt, the recording of a famous Los Angeles jam session featuring the dueling tenors of Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray on July 6, 1947. He recorded with Lester Young's quintet from 1949 to 1955 and with Stan Getz, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis.

Kay did R&B sessions for Atlantic Records in the early to mid-1950s, and he was featured on hit records such as Shake, Rattle and Roll by Big Joe Turner and Ruth Brown's (Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean.[3]

Kay joined the Modern Jazz Quartet in 1955, replacing original drummer Kenny Clarke.[1] He remained through the group's dissolution in 1974 and occasional reunions into the 1990s. In addition to his MJQ compatriots, he had an enduring partnership with cool jazz altoist Paul Desmond through the first half of the 1960s. He played drums on several of Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison's albums: Astral Weeks,[1] one song on Saint Dominic's Preview, and four songs on Tupelo Honey.[4]

Kay was known for incorporating percussion instruments alongside his drum kit, such as timpani, small cymbals, triangle, bell tree, and darbukas, the latter referred to as "exotic-looking" drums in a 2006 article.[5][6]

Kay had a stroke in 1992, but recovered enough to resume performing. He died of cardiac arrest in Manhattan in 1994 at the age of 67. He was survived by his wife, Addie, and two sons.[6][7]


With the Modern Jazz Quartet

As sideman

With Cannonball Adderley

With Chet Baker

With Ruth Brown

With Miles Davis

With Paul Desmond

With Bill Evans & Bob Brookmeyer

With Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray

With Coleman Hawkins

With Jimmy Heath

With Milt Jackson

With John Lewis

With Jay McShann

With James Moody

With Joe Newman

With Sonny Rollins

With Michel Sardaby

  • Night Cap (Sound Hills, 1970)

With Lucky Thompson

With Bobby Timmons

With Randy Weston


  1. Colin Larkin, ed. (2002). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Fifties Music (Third ed.). Virgin Books. p. 225. ISBN 1-85227-937-0.
  2. Yanow, Scott. "Connie Kay". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  3. "What Do You Know About...Connie Kay". Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  4. Tupelo Honey, Van Morrison LP (Warner WS-1950, 1971)
  5. Mariani, Rob (27 December 2006). "Connie Kay Plays the Drums Impeccably". All About Jazz. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  6. Watrous, Peter (3 December 1994). "Connie Kay, 67, Drummer, Dies; A Specialist of Sounds and Styles". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  7. "Connie Kay; Longtime Drummer With Modern Jazz Quartet". The Los Angeles Times. 2 December 1994. Retrieved 30 September 2018.
  8. "The Modern Jazz Quartet | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 July 2017.

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