Most sixteen year old musicians are honing their chops in the high school marching and concert bands. Some of the luckier ones attend a school that has a jazz band where a beginner can get a taste of improvisation. Sixteen year old alto saxophonist Grace Kellya testament to joyful precocious talent and a killer support systemtrades licks with the legendary Phil Woods and records a CD, GRACEfullLEE, with the iconic Lee Konitz.
Kelly's previous CD, Every Road I Walked (Pazz Productions, 2006), showcased the artist's versatility. In addition to playing a fine, swinging alto sax, she also writes songs and sings. She proved her talent in turning out a liltingly beautiful bossa nova ("Samba de Verao"), and she sang with a charming fearlessness on a wonderful take on the American Songbook classic "East of the Sun." And then there was Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight," an alto sax/bass duet with John Lockwood, rendered with a spare dark introspection and wee hours melancholy that made it set's highlight.
GRACEfullLEE features, in addition to Grace Kelly and Lee Konitz on altos, an all-star rhythm section of bassist Rufus Reid, guitarist Russell Malone and drummer Matt Wilson. The set has a relaxed, blowing session feel, opening with Konitz's high octane classic, "Subconscious Lee." Both altoists take extended solos. Both sound fresh and free of clichés and it is very difficult to tell who is playing which part. If Grace Kelly entertained the thought that she might be in over her head in this company (she wasn't), it doesn't show.
"Just Friends" is a duet with Kelly and guitarist Malone, who sounds especially inspired throughout. The aptly-titled "Buzzin' Around" is just Konitz and Kelly in free improvisation mode. The much-recorded "You Don't Know What Love Is" has the two altoists exploring the sad gorgeousness of the familiar melody.
GRACEfulLEE mixes up a few jazz generations and shines a bright light on a very talented up-and-coming artist on an outstanding set of sounds.
Subconscious Lee; Just Friends; GRACEfulLEE; You Don't Know What Love Is; Alone Together; Buzzing Around;
Thingin'; Call of the Spirits; NY at Noon.
Grace Kelly: alto saxophone; Lee Konitz: alto saxophone; Russell Malone: guitar; Rufus Reid: bass; Matt Wilson: drums.