Kelly Roberti is a world-acclaimed musician, composer and educator from Bozeman, Montana. His musical roots reach back fifty years to a childhood steeped in all genres by a family of music teachers and performers. Having played his first gig at the age of 11, his experiences have led to “street smart” technical skills on the bass and have translated into original compositions, performances, and workshop/clinics with the legendary musical giants of our times. Roberti’s style is a powerful blend of musical passion layered with exquisite tone by transcendent touch.

Utilizing innovative techniques which break down traditional barriers yet respect their values and influences, Roberti currently teaches improvisational thought to private students on every instrument as well as technical studies. His compositional style incorporates a wide array of influences and he is an inventive arranger of popular fare. His music reflects everything from Tin Pan Alley to ethnic world music with an awareness of the underlying harmonic and rhythmic structures affecting the listener on multiple levels. Kelly also writes lyrics for many of his compositions and he is a published poet.

Roberti’s prodigious and virtuosic bass performance has been heralded as both tenacious and groundbreaking.
He performs in group settings and solo outings. Listeners applaud his playing as:
“an original and soulful improviser with chops
almost unheard of until now.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“..earthy and meticulous bassist whose lines underpin the ensemble with roots and flair..
an heir apparent to the late Charles Mingus.”
LA Reader

“ True music is an indefinable communication. It is physics, philosophy, history, mathematics and to me a big dose of romance. Of course it is always about the illusive heart, and can only be what you’ve lived or dreamed, the pulse of our nature. I want to give to it what I have been given. I want to contribute to the tradition, the true human condition and to the next generation. ”

A Critical and popular response indicates that Roberti is achieving this mission, both for himself and for his audiences. Kelly Roberti has a list of over 150 tours with musical giants and legends in jazz, rock, and world music to his credit such as Arnett Cobb, Eddie Harris, Freddie Hubbard, Tommy Flanagan, David Murray and dozens more. Kelly also sports an impressive array of teaching credentials at many major educational institutes. He has contributed to sixty-one recordings and is preparing another two now. Kelly has performed at nearly every major venue, both clubs and festivals, on five continents.

Today, Roberti leads the charge in providing great moments of performance and illumination of jazz for his hometown of Bozeman and throughout the state of Montana. For over a decade Kelly has welcomed local, regional and national artists to the stage of Plonk! and for nearly the same time span he has also hosted Jazz & More, a unique program designed to showcase the performing arts of Montana, sponsored by the Bozeman Public Library. Whether creating outlets for emerging and established artists, lecturing, teaching or conducting workshops, Roberti’s advocacy of jazz music and history is unrelenting.

Kelly Roberti received the 2010 Governors Arts Award on January 22nd at the State Capital in Helena, MT for his lifetime involvement in playing, composing, teaching and his advocacy of jazz music and the arts.

He hosted “Jazz & More…with Kelly Roberti” at the Bozeman Public Library which features interviews and performances with a rotating collection of artists around Montana for 8 years and was honored on Saturday, April 18, with the Bozeman Public Library Foundation’s Cornerstone Award.

He passed on March 7th, 2016 in Bozeman from lung cancer.



A few musicians Kelly has worked, toured, recorded or appeared with throughout the years.

Saxophones / Reeds

Arnett Cobb, Eddie Harris, James Moody, Sonny Rollins, David Murray, Hank Crawford, David “Fathead” Newman, Sonny Fortune, Steve Lacy, Jan Garbarek, Steve Potts, Jim Pepper, Paul McCandless, Richie Cole, Red Holloway, Carter Jefferson, Kim Richmond, Ken Peplowski, Alan Fauque, Chuck Florence, Jake Fleming

Trumpet / Trombone

Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Wynton Marsalis, Hugh Ragin, Nat Adderley, Jack Walrath, Rasul Sidik, Clay Jenkins, David Scott, Gordon Vernick, Rebecca Coup Franks, Ray Anderson, Steve Turre, Craig Harris, Bill Watrous, Ralph Sappington, M.J. Williams

Drums / Percussion

Alan Dawson, Herlin Riley, Sunny Murray, Dennis Chambers, Andrew Cyrille, Ronnie Burrage, Tani Tabal, Claude Ranger, Pheeroan Aklaff, John Betsch, Jim Honaker, Airto, Keith Terry, Bobby Battle, Brad Edwards, Alex Platt, Michael Blessing, Mike Gillan

Vibes / Marimba

Bobby Hutcherson, David Samuels, Jay Hoggard, Fred Raulston


Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, Emily Remler, Joe Beck, Vernon Reid, Steve Cardenas, Spencer Barefield, Ben White, Craig Hall, Joshua Breakstone, Sheryl Bailey


Tommy Flanagan, John Hicks, Jaki Byard, Mose Allison, Kenny Werner, D.D. Jackson, Henry Butler, Mal Waldron, Hilton Ruiz, Dave Burrell, Derek Smith, Tee Carson, Claire Fischer, David Benoit, Ellyn Rucker, Peggy Stern, Lafayette Gilchrist, Bob Nell, Ann Tappan, Adam Platt, Bob Britten, Eric Funk, Dave Grusin


Michelle Hendricks, Judy Niemack, Jeanne Lee, Roseanna Vitro, Kellye Gray, Giacomo Gates, Kevin Mahogany, Julie Kelly, M.J. Williams, Dionne Warwick, Carola Vossen, Jeni Fleming, Theo Peoples, Eden Atwood, Kaylé Brecher


Ray Brown, Fred Hopkins, Michael Bisio, Anthony Cox, Bob Bowman


Billy Bang


Jimmy Slyde, Sarah Petronio, Leela Petronio, Katherine Kramer, Acia Gray, Joanne Barrett, Kamaria Dailey, Carson Murphy, Heather Barinaga


Kelly Roberti passed on March 7th, 2016 in Bozeman Montana from lung cancer. Here is an obituary written by his dear friend Eric Funk.

Kelly Roberty (stage name Kelly Roberti)

Kelly Roberti (aged 61) died Monday evening, March 7th at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital 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, Montana. His musical roots reach back fifty 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

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.

Memorial – Fundraiser Concert For Kelly Roberti was held at The Eagles Lodge in Bozeman on April 10th, 2016. Many musician friends, old and new friends of Kelly filled the venue with love.