I am pausing with thought tonight after the passing of jazz musician, Kelly Roberti earlier this month. When AllThingsEmily website was launched in 2005 there was little expectation or preparation for how it would ultimately be received or who might stumble upon it. I remember very well an inquisitive email from Kelly not long after that start up wondering who was behind the website dedicated to his beloved friend and colleague, Emily Remler, and thrilled that she was represented with such love. Of course we hit it off right away because Kelly had no time for strangers, only deep, dear friends. There were many details and behind-the-scenes perspectives he entrusted to us. He helped fill in the gaps and open up truths that allowed the website to be unique and appealing to so many. He was generous with treasures that included Emily’s handwritten music notes, live recordings from their touring days, and even a few personal items like a bandana she wore on the road and a guitar pick left behind in Montana. He was a connection to Emily that we would never have and it will not be the same without him.
For Kelly I also developed a website and tried humbly to present the eclectic mosaic that was his life and the incredible wealth of music he lived and played. Kelly’s career speaks for itself featuring performances with such notables as Emily, Herb Ellis, Arnett Cobb, Sonny Rollins, Wynton Marsalis, Freddie Hubbard, Richie Cole, Bobby Hutcherson, Kenny Werner, Sonny Fortune, David Benoit, Ray Brown, David Newman, Nat Adderley, Barney Kessel, Dave Grusin, Paul McCandless, Kevin Mahogany, David Murry, Sheryl Bailey, Joshua Breakstone, and so many more. Historic Sounds, New Sounds, Rants, and Poetic Thought live there at his website, where it speaks to us now with increasing tones. You too should visit and remember.
Kelly was fervent about jazz and unequalled in crusading for musicians long gone and for those who were making the journey. Without him I would never have known the eloquence of Abbey Lincoln, or the astounding beauty of Don Pullen, nor the love with which George Adams played. And the list goes on and on. He would instantly absorb you into his joyous outlook for what lies next. He could not contain his love for the art of jazz and by God if you spent only a minute with him, you would find you loved it too. There is so much to remember about Kelly. Everyone he met was embraced and infected with large doses of enthusiasm for all creative things.
Kelly Roberti loved the rich, endearing tones of the upright bass, he loved performing with cherished friends, he loved Montana and the city of Bozeman. He had deep affection for the written word, he was a chef extraordinaire, he was a jazz historian, he was intolerant of political buffoonery, he was a rebel, he was gentle and kind, he was a positive presence, he was clever and quick-witted, he was a teacher, an advocate, a connoisseur, a mentor, a friend, a father, a husband and a member of the band.
We are profoundly saddened by his passing and recognize the blessing it was to know him. Farewell to our friend, we will never forget Kelly Roberti.