Take Five With Kathy Kelly

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Kathy Kelly: Kathy Kelly has been playing the vibes professionally since 1979 when she made her debut performing in Chicago-area jazz clubs.

A Different Vibe is Kelly's debut CD, featuring twelve original jazz compositions. Featured along with Kelly on the CD are guitarist John McLean, bassist Dan DeLorenzo, and drummer Jim Widlowski.

A review in Cadence Magazine says of Kelly, "She stretches out with a fluid improvisational style that combines coolness with intricate details." Jazzreview.com praises the CD, saying, "This is a spunky, lively, feel-good collection of original songs... A Different Vibe is a winner, excellent."

Kelly uses her original jazz compositions to showcase the vibes, and lend the group a distinctive sound. Influences from jazz artists (Thelonious Monk, Eddie Harris, Gary Burton) as well as world music (African, Brazilian, Latin and Middle Eastern) can be heard in her varied compositions. Kelly's tunes have a strong tie with musical tradition; listeners often comment that the tunes "sound familiar" on the first listening.

Besides performing with her groups Vibrafon and the Kathy Kelly Quintet, she performs with Tudo de Bom, vocalist Hinda Hoffman, and Steve Hashimoto's jazz group, Mothra. Kelly has performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland with the Chicago State University Jazz Ensemble, and has twice entertained audiences at the Chicago Jazz Festival with her quartet. Kelly is the founder and artistic director of the Chicago Jazz Composers Collective, sponsor of monthly jazz composers concerts at the Green Mill jazz club in Chicago

Instrument(s): vibes.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I first heard The Beatles. I was in grade school and the music really resonated with me. I thought it was like magic, how could anyone sound like that?

Your sound and approach to music: Lately I've been writing a lot of music, so that is at the center of what I do as a vibraphonist. I focus on composing music that will be interesting and fun for the musicians to play and also will serve as a good vehicle for improvisation. I usually write at the vibes and that enables me to find ideas that showcase the instrument. At times I will write pieces for certain musicians that I am working with, keeping in mind their sound and approach to music.

Your dream band: I would love to work with a bandoneon player but don't know any who live in my area.

Favorite venue: My favorite venue is the legendary Green Mill in Chicago. They have hosted the Chicago Jazz Composers Collective for the past six years, which is a great contribution to the scene here. The owner and staff are wonderful and it's a great place to play. They also occasionally bring in musicians like Sheila Jordan, Kenny Werner, Ben Allison, Matt Wilson, etc.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? My favorite recording is yet to be made. I am very happy with my CD, A Different Vibe, and am looking forward to recording new music that reflects the many aspects of music I have been exploring recently.

CDs you are listening to now: Joyce and Tutti Moreno-Samba Jazz; Outras Bossas, Far Out Recordings; Marisa Monte, Infinito Particular.

How would you describe the state of jazz today? I think jazz is expanding in so many ways that the old label jazz seems outdated. There is a lot of really exciting music being made that has aspects of jazz combined with other influences. At my suggestion that we just drop the name jazz from our music a friend of mine suggested we just call all music jazz, his point being that jazz had influenced most of American music. An interesting point.

What is in the near future? I have been working with a group of musician/composers in a group called Tudo de Bom (inspired by the great musician Hermeto Pascoal). The group includes Jeff Beer-trumpet, Juli Wood-saxophone, Dan DeLorenzo-bass, Mike Schlick-drums and myself on vibes. Recently I have written many new compositions for the group and look forward to presenting this material at various clubs in Chicago.


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