Grace Kelly

People seem to fall into two categories when it comes to Grace Kelly, singer/ saxophonist/ composer/ lyricsist/ arranger/ educator. The former group is growing in number by the day. Wynton Marsalis, a Trumpeter and Jazz at Lincoln Center Artistic director, was so impressed by Kelly’s three-night stay as a guest of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, he invited Kelly to join him at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater in Washington, D.C., for Barack Obama’s Inauguration Celebration. Harry Connick, Jr. saw Kelly at a masterclass on December afternoon, and invited her to join his band that evening. Kelly was voted “Best Jazz Act” by Boston for four consecutive years in FNX/Phoenix Best Music Polls. She was also voted Best National Jazz Act 2012 Kelly has been awarded the ASCAP Foundation’s Young Jazz Composers Award in 2007, 2008 2010, 2010 and 2011. She was also named “Jazz Artist of the year” at the Boston Music Awards 2008 and 2010. She was named one of the “Alto Saxophone Rising Stars” by the Downbeat Critics Poll in 2009, 2011, and 2012. Kelly has now added Grace to her impressive list of credits and kudos. Grace is the seventh release on her PAZZ record. This album is a departure for Kelly, who has been a renowned Gospel pianist George Russell Jr. The journey to create a spiritually-driven album started with a performance at Nashville’s Festival of Homiletics in 2010. This convention is made up of more than 2,000 ministers from around the globe. Although Grace is mainly a duet between Russell and Kelly, it also features cameos by Jamey Haddad (Paul Simon’s touring band) and Peter Clemente (classical guitarist). Grace’s music brings Kelly‚Äôs jazzy Jazz into a Godly setting. Kelly is a rising star in Gospel Jazz, proving herself to be a powerful performer with the uplifting “Blessed Assurance” opener and the refreshing “Amazing Grace” rendition. “Through music I feel like I’m channeling a spiritual energy that I hope people can pass on and it’s been an incredible experience to watch how people have been affected by this music. This is the gift that I have been blessed with and I feel it’s important to share it.” Grace Chung, a teenage phenom, has musical energy flowing from her heart. Grace was born Grace Chung May 15, 1992. After Grace’s mother divorced, she remarried, and Bob Kelly, Grace’s stepfather, adopted Grace and Christina. Grace began piano lessons at six years old because of the strong classical music heritage of her mother. She still composes a lot of her songs at the piano, even though she can’t speak. She was also a keen singer, dancer, writer, and actor from an early age. Soon, she discovered a love for jazz saxophonists Stan Getz and others, which her parents enjoyed at Sunday brunches. In fourth grade, she began studying clarinet at her elementary and then began private lessons in saxophone a few months later. Ann Hampton Callaway, a vocalist who saw Kelly’s “unboundless spirit and imagination as a natural artist”, was another source of inspiration. Middle school music teacher Ken Berman was another early champion. He was so impressed by Kelly’s writing and playing that he demanded, “You have to record.” Dreaming was her first album. She recalls that the CD was released on March 17, 2004 when she was twelve. From then on, Kelly was a star on stage and received many accolades. Times Too (2005) was a two-disc set that saw her expand her musical palette and interpret classics like “Isfahan”, “Round Midnight,” with the gravitas expected of a veteran. Every Road I Walked (2006) was the title track on her next album. She received her first ASCAP Foundation award and an invitation to perform at the Boston Pops. Conductor Keith Lockhart, still just 14 years old, asked Kelly to perform her composition at the concert. Kelly rose to the challenge and wrote her first orchestral arrangement, which she performed in Boston’s Symphony Hall. She says, “That experience taught my that anything is possible.” Kelly, still a teenager, continued to receive accolades for her singing and playing with artists she revered. She recorded and performed with such greats as Wynton Marsalis and Phil Woods, Harry Connick Jr. and Jamie Cullum. Terri Lynn Carrington was also a part of the recording sessions. Kelly’s most intimate connection was with Lee Konitz, whom she has studied with since age 13. Kelly’s first relationship with Konitz was as a teacher. However, their friendship has blossomed into a mentorship and personal friendship. Kelly says that Lee was the greatest teacher to her. However, Kelly and Konitz have become close friends and mentors. Kelly invited Konitz to play on two tracks of her fourth album. This invitation led to the creation of “GRACEfulLEE” as well as an entire CD titled the same. GRACEfulLEE was recorded with all-star support from guitarist Russell Malone and Rufus Reid, as well as drummer Matt Wilson. It has been widely acclaimed for being one of the most important jazz recordings of 2008, and the first decade in the new millennium. 2009 saw the release her fifth album, Mood Changes. It featured her working quintet. Kelly took on new roles as a singer, arranger, and bandleader. Kelly admits that there is nothing better than playing your own music with your own band. Everyone is so relaxed, but I feel like I’m being pushed every time I perform. But, I have realized more about what I want and the music is more in my control. Each time we play, it’s an adventure.” The 2011 album Man With The Hat saw Grace collaborate with Phil Woods on an entire album. This album is a tribute and celebration of the bebop tradition that Woods has championed throughout his career. It features seven originals and standard songs, as well as originals, written by Kelly and Woods. The album was performed by an all-star band. They toured Europe in support of the album and continue to tour the United States and Europe. Woods’ willingness and ability to record and tour alongside Kelly, who is only 23, speaks volumes about her musical skills on her instrument. Woods exclaimed, “I gave her mine, that’s how great she sounded.” Kelly graduated from Boston’s Berklee College of Music in May. At age 19, “I auditioned at Berklee, and was awarded a full scholarship. I received my GED and began college at 16. It’s been amazing, playing every day and just enjoying music. I am learning so much, and I play all types of music. Although it was difficult to balance college and all the touring that I do with my band, I was able do both. Grace has been a Berklee College resident instructor since 2012. Grace has performed more than 500 concerts around the globe as a leader at venues like the Montreal Jazz Festival and Newport Jazz Festival.

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