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Kelly Roberty

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Kelly Roberty Obituary
Kelly Roberty (stage name Kelly Roberti)

Kelly Roberti (aged 61) died Monday evening, March 7, 2016, at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital, Bozeman, Montana, after a powerful fight for life against cancer. Kelly, a world-acclaimed jazz musician, composer, poet and educator was born in Malta, Montana, but lived most of his life in Bozeman. His musical roots reach back 50 years to a childhood steeped in all musical genres by a family of music teachers and performers. He played his first gig at age 11 and his experiences from that point forward lead to the acquisition of street-smart technical skills on the double bass. His life as a jazz musician was phenomenal. Kelly basically "cut his own furrow" both in life and music and created a singular style and personality. Those of us who knew Kelly well can attest to his emotional range and passion, his often outspoken and pointed approach. He was someone who didn't "suffer fools lightly" while at the same time revealed a loyalty, dedication and caring beyond compare. It was always an admixture of tough and gentle love. In justification for his tirades he would often say (or shout laughingly), "I'm Italian!" His heritage was something he was very proud to mention, nearly always segueing to "I'm half Sicilian, half Genovese."

He made music with many of the world's greatest musicians including Arnett Cobb, Eddie Harris, Freddie Hubbard, Tommy Flanagan, David Murray and dozens more. Over the course of his life he performed at nearly every major venue in clubs and festivals on five continents. He mentored many of Bozeman's finest young jazz musicians, teaching "improvisational thought" and unearthing some real rising stars. In 2010 Kelly Roberti received a Montana Governor's Award for the Arts and in 2015 he received a Bozeman Public Library Foundation "Cornerstone Award" for his lecture-concert series "Jazz & More with Kelly Roberti" which involved over 100 shows in one of the longest running library programs. Respected critics said the following, "…an original and soulful improviser with chops almost unheard of until now," "…earthy and meticulous bassist whose lines underpin the ensemble with roots and flair…an heir apparent to the late Charles Mingus." For those of us who made music with him he was a passionate, deliberate, present truth teller who engaged in every musical dialog with memorable force or poignant tenderness.

More information about Kelly's remarkable life and work can be found on the web at http://kellyroberti.com/

Music in Bozeman and Kelly Roberti are somewhat synonymous. Every musician in town knew Kelly. Many heard his weekly performances with the best area players on Wednesday nights at the Bozeman club "Plonk" for years. It wasn't that long ago that the famed Nell-Roberti-Edwards trio (Bob Nell, Kelly Roberti, Brad Edwards) was the premiere jazz mainstay; fresh, alive, relevant and powerful, performing as a trio or backing world-renowned, famous guest artists at Bozeman's "Ira's" or the Gallatin Gateway Inn, often as part of national tours.

Kelly is preceded in death by his father, Erminio Michael (Mike) Roberty (2002), beloved long-time Bozeman Public Schools music administrator. He is survived by his mother, Mary Lee Roberty; his loving wife, Yae Inoue Roberti; his son, Vito Reed

(Ojai, California); his brother, Mike Roberty; and his children Raya and Jenica and Risa and Jason Palm; his sister, Susan Usher, her husband John, and their children Kelsey and Ryder; and his brother, Tony Roberty, all Bozeman residents.

Cremation has taken place. A memorial-fundraiser concert to celebrate Kelly's life and help defray costs incurred during the last few month's fight against cancer will occur sometime soon. This will occur in April 2016 on a Sunday evening at The Eagles Lodge, 316 East Main Street in Bozeman, date to be announced. Musicians from Montana to New York and perhaps Europe will perform to commemorate a great musician who has left a giant hole in our hearts.

Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service. www.dokkennelson.com
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Mar. 13, 2016
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