Ellis Lane Larkins was a jazz pianist known as a Baltimore prodigy. He is best remembered for his remarkable recordings with singer Ella Fitzgerald. Ella Sings Gershwin features Larkins as the sole accompanist
Larkins began his musical training while he was very young. By the age of seven, he was already playing Mozart. He went on to earn a full scholarship with Austin Conradi and Pasquale Tallerico at the segregated Peabody Conservatory. Larkins was the first African American to attend the Peabody Conservatory of Music. (However, he was not permitted to attend classes). He went on to attend Juilliard School. For his senior recital there Larkins gave a stunning impromptu demonstration on the similarities between the melodic lines of Bach and boogie-woogie.
Following school, Larkins performed jazz piano with Billy Moore and Edmond Hall. He recorded with Coleman Hawkins, Mildred Bailey, and Dicky Wells in the 1940s. In the 1950s he recorded with Ella Fitzgerald, Ruby Braff, and Beverly Kenney. Through the years, Larkins recorded several solo albums. He rarely- if ever — sought the spotlight. He stressed the importance of musical patience, of adhering to a song’s melody. Ellis Larkins died on May 15, 1923.