Among jazz aficionados in the "real" Upstate New York, that is to say in and around the cities of Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo, vocalist Nancy Kelly is well known. She has performed at multiple venues, both still extant and defunct, which served as havens for music lovers in the area. Known for her uncompromising artistry and singular approach to standards, Kelly did not limit her activity to her native region. Over half a century she has performed all over the USA as well as internationally and has released several critically acclaimed recordings.
Early in her career she also tried her hand at songwriting, and produced a handful of captivating tunes that were shelved until 2022. Two of those are now available on Jazz Woman: The Reel to Real Sessions and their release coincides with Kelly being inducted into the Rochester Music Hall of Fame.
The bluesy title track features soulful refrains and a swaggering cadence. Kelly's interpretation of the witty lyrics are, of course, intimate and effortless while the horns often underscore her emotive delivery. Trumpeter Freddie Hendrix takes a suave and muted solo which mirrors Kelly's singing in its elegance.
Meanwhile the effervescent "Move Over" is a lush, Latinesque, ballad which opens with tenor saxophonist Harry Allen's eloquent, warm lines. Over buoyant rhythmic vamps, which vibraphonist Jimmy Johns enhances with his resonant mallets, Kelly launches into a sensual rendition of her own composition. Her voice undulates around the words, caressing them with gentle passion. Allen takes center stage with his signature bravado and sophisticated style.
Kelly penned these pieces decades ago yet they sound as fresh and relevant as any contemporary music. This is a testament to her superb talent and musicianship. The unique combination of youthful enthusiasm and its seasoned interpretation make for an intriguing and captivating listening experience.
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