Best known for his work with the Modern Jazz Quartet, Conrad Kirnon was a master of coloration and swing.
As a teen-ager, he performed at clubs in the Bronx. He played for comedians, singers, tap-dancers and chorus girls.
He was the house drummer at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem, where be-bop was born. He worked with swing era musicians, as well, and as house drummer at Atlantic Records he recorded with Ruth Brown, Ray Charles, and Joe Turner.
Connie joined the Modern Jazz Quartet in 1955, and maintained a busy freelance career, recording with Lucky Thompson, Cannonball Adderley, Jimmy Heath, Paul Desmond, Tommy Flanagan and Chet Baker. Many people of a certain age recognize his name from Van Morrison recordings.
”A drummer is really a tap dancer. ‘Like a tap dancer, a drummer fills openings in the music. A drummer is supposed to listen to what’s going on around him to enhance what the soloist is doing, to support him and to play things that fit the music.” –Connie Kay, interview by Peter Watrous