Grace Kelly has made her mark primarily as a singer, saxophonist and bandleader in the jazz world since she began performing professionally as a pre-teen. But she's been adding songwriting to the mix more and more in recent years.
"I've been writing a lot and been really enjoying it," says the Massachusetts-born Kelly, 20, who was born Chung but changed her surname when her mother remarried to Robert Kelly. She graduated high school at 16 and studied at the Berklee College of Music and has since built a discography of eight albums, including the new concert set "Live at Scullers," and has accumulated a variety of both national and regional awards.
"I tell the people at my shows, 'I hope you don't listening to my compositions -- if I don't play them, nobody else will!' Some people have said some of the (songs) could be in the real American songbook years from now, which would be a dream come true."
Kelly acknowledges that her writing pushes the parameters of jazz, incorporating melodic approaches that hew towards pop. Kelly says she's influenced by "a big range" that includes Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Joni Mitchell and John Mayer, and she thinks it's a good idea for jazz fans to hear some of that in her music -- and vice-versa.
"That's where my music wants to go, the most genuine thing I'm interested in doing, and it would be a crime not to follow my heart," Kelly explains. "And I think the wave is changing now, with great artists like Esperanza Spalding and Robert Glasper fusing jazz with hip-hop and contemporary things.
"That's where jazz is headed, and the only way it won't die out. It's how we can grab a younger generation, people my age; they'll hear it and go, 'Oh, that's jazz? That's not old music. That's MY music!' I'm certain if Miles Davis was alive today, he'd be collaborating with hip-hop artists and people like that. Fusion is what keeps everything interesting, so that's what I want to do, too."
Grace Kelly performs at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 6-7, at the Dirty Dog, 97 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe. Cover is $20. Call 313-882-5299 or visit www.dirtydogjazz.com.
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