MARK KELLEY (of The Roots)
photo by Bahram Foroughi
He may be the latest member of The Roots crew (since Aug 2011), but Mark Kelley has been honing his craft since 2000 in the R&B and jazz trenches with everyone from Meshell Ndegeocello to John Scofield. Now his versatile, discerning style is on full display nightly via Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, on veteran vocalist Betty Wright’s CD, Betty Wright: The Movie, and more recently on Elvis Costello's new album Wise Up Ghost.
Born in Houston, Texas, to a classical pianist dad and an R&B-loving physician mom, Kelley tried cello and guitar before settling on bass at age 13, after seeing his uncle play in church. At Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, he added upright to his repertoire, inspired by Christian McBride and Roland Guerin. A scholarship to Berklee followed, where his playing was further impacted by fellow students Chris Laughlin (Brian McKnight) and Reuben Rogers (Joshua Redman). Upon graduation, Kelley spent two years touring with Scofield’s Überjam band before moving to New York City in 2005. Meeting Ndegeocello through his doorman, who literally flagged her down walking by, Mark began six years of road work with the maverick Miss. A 2011 call from Roots drummer Questlove to sub for McBride in Quest’s Mo’ Meta Blues I band led to another to back Michael McDonald and Sara Bareilles at the 4th Annual Roots Picnic. A month and a half later, when Owen Biddle decided to depart the Roots, Kelley was offered the full time bass chair.