Animal Crackers: Grace Kelly

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Wednesday, July 6: Online ordering is no longer available. Please purchase your tickets for tonight's concert at the gate.

Although the singer and saxophone player has been acclaimed by critics and audiences alike as a jazz musician, the track’s exhilarating chorus, haunting keyboard hook and brittle electro edge show an artist interested only in playing what she loves labels be damned. But whatever the style, the 23-year-old seven-time winner of the Downbeat critics poll (as a rising star in the alto sax category) spices up the sound with the lyrical and soulful phrasing of her instrument. Kelly, who guested with the Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra as part of the events surrounding BarackObama’s inauguration celebration at the request of the ensemble’s director, Wynton Marsalis -remains as committed to superior playing as ever. Drawn to jazz by melodic players like Stan Getz and Paul Desmond, Kelly also found in the music afreedom to express herself that she had not found in her classical piano lessons. Née Grace Chung in Wellesley, Mass., in 1992, Kelly started taking clarinet lessons in Grade 4 but quickly switched to alto sax at the age of 10. She was soon transcribing Miles Davis pieces.

 

Kelly recorded her first album, Dreaming, when she was 12. Even on that debut release, the music pointed to her future eclecticism by mixing the pure pop of On My Way Home with selections like the Beatles’ Can’t Buy Me Love, a medley of Blue Skies and In Walked Bud and the self composed odd-meter jazz instrumental G-Bop. Kelly, 14 at the time of the album’s release, received the first of her ASCAP Foundation awards for the title track and was invited to  perform with the Boston Pops. For the occasion, she wrote her  first full orchestral arrangement, adapting the award winning piece.

 

Kelly also graduated from the Berklee College of Music in 2011, with a degree  in professional music. She has taught residency workshops there since 2012. That year also brought another importantopportunity to pass on her musical knowledge: the U.S. State Department sent her on an international speakers tour to be an ambassador of jazz and educate the people of Madagascar and the Comoros Islands about the music.

 

“I think everybody comes to life with a calling,” Kelly says. “I’ve been super blessed that my calling in life has been music and that I found  it from an early age. But what  I really hope my music brings to people ishealing. There’s nothing that makes me feel better than when somebody, after a show, says ‘You lifted me up.” Is it the main reason she plays? Her response comes without hesitation:  “It’s the only reason.”

 

Grace has recently been added to the band for the Steven Colbert Show.

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