Inevitably, when you start talking about saxophonist Grace Kelly, people get a confused look on their face. They’re apt to politely correct you and enlighten you on her wonderful performances in Rear Window and To Catch a Thief (in reference to actress Grace Kelly). What you have to explain to them is that there can be two memorable talents with the same name. Every Road I Walked is saxophonist Kelly’s third release on Pazz Productions.
Her playing, composing, arranging and songwriting continue to develop on an equal plane and receive praise and accolades nationwide (she is one of this year’s ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composer Award recipients, was a participant in the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Program at the Kennedy Center and recently performed at Blues Alley, both in Washington, D.C.). Her eyes and ears are bigger now since 2005’s Times Too and 2004’s Dreaming and her many musical influences are melding with her own natural tendencies. [See the interview under "Features - Interview", Grace Kelly - Grace Notes, http://www.jazzreview.com/article/review-4786.html, at www.jazzreview.com.]
For instance, Kelly’s springboard has been the interpretive styles and individuality of saxophonists Paul Desmond and Stan Getz ("I’ll Remember April") and the songwriting tandem of John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney ("I Will"). Her approach to using popular music as material is loose enough for her to react with exuberance and then put her own spin on it. That looseness gives her performances ease to please and experiment and her compositions their signature touch ("Finish Line"). She’s both daring, using bent notes, and a tad coy swallowing notes in her rendition of "Round Midnight." In both this tune and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," Kelly demonstrates her innate ability and willingness to play within an ensemble as opposed to stomping upon the supportive work of her band mates. She shares the open air with bassist John Lockwood in the opening minute-and-a-half of the tune from The Wizard of Oz and treats it as more than the usual you-then-me-then-you soloing hand-off bit. "Here’s That Rainy Day" (with guitarist Adam Larrabee and Lockwood) captures Kelly sounding at her best on an unhurried tune; slow-smoked and wistful. One aspect of her musicianship is commendable: she sings ("East of the Sun (West of the Moon)", "Samba de Verao (So Nice)"), she sings well and she’s sounding more assured of her singing at each outing.
Kelly’s "Filosophical Flying Fish," which placed third in the 2006 International Songwriting Competition (http://www.songwritingcompetition.com/winners.htm), is the rouser of the set and features trumpeter Christian Scott. He and Kelly, along with pianist Doug Johnson (Kelly’s piano teacher,) Lockwood (New England Conservatory faculty member,) and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, (she and Scott are Berklee College of Music Alumni,) currently or have at one time called Boston, MA home. This same group turns out a sulty "Summertime" to close Every Road I Walked.
Kelly is a bone fide emerging talent. Not likely that saxophonist Phil Woods would take on any less for a student or blues harmonica players James Cotton and James Montgomery would have any less of a talent beside them in concert. Despite (and maybe in spite) of the hype of her youth (she's now about age 15,) she is sprouting. Her appearances are becoming more high-profile. She knows how to work her band and reward them with her generosity on stage. Her family is her emotional foundation as well as her business partner. Every Road I Walked is a success because of her choice of material and the musicians and the inclusion of her own music. Very soon she won’t be confused with that other princess.