Grace Kelly (musician)

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Grace Kelly
Esperanza Spalding and Grace Kelly.jpg
Grace Kelly and Esperanza Spalding
(1st International Jazz Day, The United Nations, April 30, 2012)
Background information
Birth name Grace Chung
Born (1992-05-15) May 15, 1992 (age 23)
Wellesley, Massachusetts, United States
Origin Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Genres Jazz, Pop, Sophisti-pop, Blues, Rock, Singer-songwriter
Occupation(s) Musician, composer, saxophone, singer, arranger, educator
Instruments Saxophone, Vocals, Keyboards, Flute
Years active 1994–present
Labels PAZZ Productions

Grace Kelly (born Grace Chung; May 15, 1992)[1] is a musician, entertainer, songwriter and arranger. Kelly became the youngest ever musician voted to the DownBeat Magazine's Critics Poll at age 16.[2] Kelly has collaborated and recorded with many acclaimed musicians in various genres of music, produced and released recordings of her own. Kelly regularly tours with her band and has performed in over 600 concerts, in 28 countries.[3] She has scored soundtracks for films and appeared in documentaries. Among her many honors, Kelly was named one of Glamour Magazines Top 10 College Woman in 2011[4] and she has been featured on[5] and NPR[6] programs. Working professionally since she was a pre-teen, Kelly was both lauded,[5][7][8] and derided,[9][10] as a prodigy; even as she was collaborating and sharing the stage with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Lee Konitz, Dave Brubeck, Keith Lockhart, and Phil Woods. She received her BA from Berklee College of Music at age 19 and currently resides in Los Angeles. Kelly is currently working on a new album with the producer Stewart Levine, who has worked with such artists as Joe Cocker, Simply Red, Huey Lewis and the News, Killing Joke, Jamie Cullum, BB King and Minnie Ripperton. Sunny Levine, Stewart's son, is a co-producer, co-writer, and multi-instrumentalist on the project. Sunny Levine has worked with Pete Yorn, Scarlett Johansson, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Happy Mondays, Mickey Avalon, Alekesam, among others.


Early life[edit]

Born Grace Chung, in Wellesley, Massachusetts to Korean parents, she moved to Brookline, MA when she was two years old. Her mother remarried in 1997 to Robert Kelly, who legally adopted Grace a few years later, thus changing her name to Grace Kelly.[1] Kelly was brought up in a family that greatly appreciates music and the arts.

Discovering the saxophone[edit]

Kelly grew up in a household that appreciated music, especially the American Songbook, Broadway and jazz. Her parents used to play Stan Getz at Sunday brunch and she fell in love with "The Sound". She wanted to play saxophone but was too young at the time. Kelly began taking classical piano lessons at age six, but changed to jazz because she liked making up her own melodies instead of playing what was written on the page. Kelly wrote her first song "On My Way Home" at age seven.[11] In 4th grade, Kelly took up playing the clarinet through her elementary school, but switched over to saxophone privately later that year. At age 12, Kelly recorded her first CD, Dreaming. While in the recording stages Kelly met Ann Hampton Callaway, a renowned jazz cabaret singer who offered to write the liner notes to Grace's first CD. Of Kelly, she said "Her sensitivity, control and focus as an alto saxophonist is impressive. When I played some songs of hers for the legendary drummer Victor Lewis, he said, 'Wow I love her sound.'"[1]


She left Brookline High School at age 16, earned her GED, and began study at Berklee College of Music on full scholarship, where she graduated December 2011 with a degree in Professional Music. Kelly studies or has studied saxophone with Jeremy Udden, James Merenda,[12] George Garzone, Lee Konitz, Greg Osby, Jerry Bergonzi, and Allan Chase.[1]



At age 14, Kelly appeared as special guest artist for two nights with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops 2007 Jazz Series. One of the selections Kelly performed was her award winning composition Every Road I Walked which she also arranged for the entire Pops orchestra.[13]

At age 15, Kelly performed with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra for three nights in 2008. The next year, Marsalis invited her back to play with Dave Brubeck for the "Let Freedom Swing / Celebration Of America" concert held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as part of the Inaugural Festivities for President Barack Obama.[14]

In 2009, Kelly was selected by the Boston Celtics to play the National Anthem at the TD Garden for a preseason and play-off games.[15]

Kelly opened the 2010 Newport Jazz Festival playing alongside Jamie Cullum.

In 2012, Grace was selected to perform at the 30th Annual NEA Jazz Masters Ceremony with Phil Woods and Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.[16] In October of the same year, Kelly represented U.S. Jazz Music in the United States State Department International Speakers Tour of Madagascar and the Comoros Islands.

She has performed in venues in the North America, South America, Europe and Asia including Carnegie Hall, Rose Hall at JALC, Birdland, Kennedy Center, Detroit Jazz Festival, Blues Alley, Newport Jazz Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival, Toronto Jazz Festival, Boston Symphony Hall, Jazz Standard, 50th Grammy Awards (After party), Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival, Ronnie Scotts, Duc des Lombard, Porgy & Bess.[13]


Kelly has recorded and/or performed with Harry Connick, Jr. ?uestlove, Wynton Marsalis, Huey Lewis, Gloria Estefan, Lee Konitz, Phil Woods, Dave Brubeck, Hank Jones, Esperanza Spalding, Keith Lockhart, Frank Morgan, Jonathan Batiste, Kenny Barron, Cedar Walton, Marian McPartland, Russell Malone, Rufus Reid, Matt Wilson, Ann Hampton Callaway, Jerry Bergonzi, Terri Lyne Carrington, Dianne Reeves, Chris Potter, Adam Rogers, Christian Scott, Peter Bernstein, James Cotton, Jamie Cullum, Monty Alexander, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Geri Allen, Candy Dulfer, David Sanborn, Marcus Miller, Gerald Albright, Bob Dorough, Bill Banfield, Vance Gilbert, Michael League (Snarky Puppy), among others.[13]

At 16, Kelly and NEA Jazz master Lee Konitz recorded the album, GRACEfulLEE. The album went on to garner a 4 1/2 star review from DownBeat magazine.[17] At 18 she released her sixth album, Man with the Hat, a collaboration with jazz legend Phil Woods.


Her 2013 single, Sweet Sweet Baby, recorded for Woodward Avenue Records, reached #10 on Billboard Smooth Jazz Singles Chart[18]

Critical reception[edit]

Artist quotes[edit]

"Grace, I'm a big fan of yours. You got chops baby, you got chops." - Clarence Clemons

"Grace Kelly writes great songs, sings beautifully, is a world class saxophonist, and is going to be a big big star" - Huey Lewis

"Grace Kelly plays with intelligence, wit and feeling. She has a great amount of natural ability and the ability to adapt. That is the hallmark of a first-class jazz musician." - Wynton Marsalis

“As everybody knows, she is a remarkably mature player” - David Sanborn

“Grace is one of the most natural musicians I’ve ever come across. In my eyes Grace is the future” - Stewart Levine

"I first met Grace Kelly at the 2006 summer jazz program at Stanford University. I was amazed at her precocity and talent. Recently she sat in with me and the Jazz Ambassadors Jazz Band at the Pittsfield Jazz Fest. and we jammed together through "I'll Remember April." How did she sound? I gave her my hat! That is how good she sounded! She is the first alto player to get one. Hooray for the future of jazz and the alto sax!" "Ten years ago I was asked by someone where the new Bird was going to come from. I said, half-jokingly, that it might be a dwarf, Albino woman from Africa. Jazz seems to be floundering right now, and we don't have a clear-cut leader. Maybe Grace Kelly is the one. You just never know." - Phil Woods

"Ms. Kelly is a phenomenon – not a precociously talented child, but a complete improvising musician. With Konitz, one of the great individualists in jazz, she is a peer." - Doug Ramsey/Rifftides

"Grace had invited me to play a few tunes on her new CD but once we got into the studio there were many inspired moments and it turned out to be a whole CD on its own. I gave her permission to play better than I, if she just couldn't stand it anymore. Grace is a fearless young improviser, and besides that she is fun to be around." - Lee Konitz

"The future of our music is in good hands." - Jimmy Heath

"Well after reading the glowing reviews from many of my peers on your CD jacket I expected something special, but words can only do so much justice toward introducing your talents and obvious dedication to music. It simply has to be know how to get to the essence of swing, sound, and true improvisation and whether you are playing or singing or composing this essence shines through and is the sign of a true artist at work. It also goes without saying, that you have a maturity far beyond your years. I look forward to following your career. I really think you will have a big impact on the music world." - Randy Brecker

"Grace Kelly is a unique and genuine talent. Great young performers are nothing new, but someone who possesses such ease of expression and musical personality at such an early stage of her career is a find, indeed. I can't wait to see what her future holds!" - Keith Lockhart

Critics quotes[edit]

"They play a duet of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that ends the evening on an ethereal, dream-like note. It feels very much like she’s conquered Montreal. Amazing Grace, indeed." - Jeremy Goodwin, WBUR ARTery[19]

"Although a listener unfamiliar with Kelly’s talent may suspect the recording to be a novelty, such is not the case. For one thing, Kelly has earned already.... at sixteen! the respect of musicians like Russell Malone, Rufus Reid and Matt Wilson. For another, those musicians accompany her on GRACEfulLEE, with gratifying results. Then there’s Kelley’s musicianship. Not only do she and Konitz romp through free improvisations like "Call of the Spirits" and Konitz’s compositions like "Thingin’," but also the qualifies of her tone and her note choices suggest a maturity beyond her years." - Don Williamson, Jazz Review[8]

"Kelly does have a lovely tone, at her best she tends to avoid cliches in her playing, she has a knack for clever arrangements, she even writes decent tunes. Her singing is no match for her sax playing, though it's not terrible, just a lot closer to pop and MOR than what we think of as jazz. Her lyrics are mostly what you'd expect from someone her age, a bit naive and not all that interesting. In short, Kelly is not breaking any new ground and may not even as she matures." "...What's not so easy to figure is how long she'll remain so popular given the calculated style of show she put on in Ottawa Friday." - Doug Fischer, Ottawa Citizen[9]

"It's a blessing from the gods, this kind of talent, and when we see it in someone young, we marvel at the contrast: a child with the outsize abilities of an adult." - Todd Leopold, CNN[5]

"Grace is rapidly making her way up in the jazz music world. Grace's talents far outstrip others her age...So proclaims the teenagers web site. And this is no generic MySpace page, but (like everything associated with Ms. Kelly) a slick, professional presentation... Ah, I wish I was more impressed with Grace Kelly's saxophone playing. I have been told many times that I should be impressed with it." - Ted Goia,[10]

"What if I told you that the future of jazz, which many have pronounced dead or dying in the last two decades, rested in the hands of a 16-year-old Korean American saxophonist named Grace Kelly?...I’ve heard the future of jazz and it is Grace Kelly.”, David Was/NPR’s Day to Day[7]

"Jazz has had its share of prodigies over the years, as well as players – Miles Davis was one – who established their creative credentials while they were barely out of their teens …..few teenage horn players, and even fewer who are female, have drawn much attention in recent years. With the exception, that is, of Grace Kelly, a 15-year-old alto saxophonist and singer Grace Kelly. Grace plays with stunning maturity and an extraordinary command of her instrument.", Don Heckman/LA Times[20]

"I love this record…This young lady has bags of talent."- Michael Jackson, DownBeat[21]

"Has she really got it?...The answer turns out to be, yes." - William Ruhlman, JazzTimes[22]

"What gave the evening a "star is born" dramatic tension was the playing of an amazing alto saxophonist, Grace Kelly." - Mike Drew, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel[23]

"Grace Kelly is still on. No mere flash in the pan, Grace Kelly is here to stay." - Ken Dryden, All About Jazz[24]

"To say that Kelly plays with maturity beyond her years is to make the understatement of the decade. She has a strong, bright, centered sound, great harmonic and melodic command, and time and technique to burn... Make no mistake; Ms. Kelly has got the goods." - Billy Kerr, Saxophone Journal[25]

Awards and distinguished honors[edit]

  • Winner New England Music Awards: Jazz Act of the Year 2013[26]
  • Winner Phoenix "Best Music Poll" National Jazz Act Of The Year 2012[27]
  • Glamour Magazines 54th Annual Top 10 College Woman Competition Winner [4]
  • Named six times in the annual DownBeat Magazine's Critics Poll as one of the Alto Saxophone "Rising Star” 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 (Youngest musician ever named to Critics Poll)[28][29][30][31][32][33]
  • Downbeat Magazine Readers Poll Finalist Alto Saxophone, 2012, 2013, 2014[34][35][36]
  • Nominated “Breakthrough Artist of the Year” 2013 SiriusXM Watercolors
  • Voted "Jazz Act of the Year" Boston Music Awards 2008, 2010, nominated "Jazz Act of the Year" Boston Music Awards 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
  • Recipient of the ASCAP Foundation 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 Young Jazz Composers Award[37][38][39]
  • CNN “Making of a Prodigy” feature story[5]
  • Winner Jimmy Woode Award Saxophone Soloist, Tuscia in Jazz Italy[40]
  • Finalist 2009 Jazz A Juan Revelations, Les Pins, France
  • Voted "Best Jazz Act" in Boston four consecutive years 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 FNX/Phoenix Best Music Poll[41][42][43][44]
  • "Outstanding Jazz Act of the Year" 2008 Boston Music Awards[45][46]
  • Finalist 2009 ISC International Songwriting Contest "But Life Goes On" – First ever recipient of the "Brad Delp Rising Star Award" – 2009 Limelight Magazine Music Awards[47]
  • Recipient of the 2008 Francis B. Lanier Award NEC Prep School (Youngest ever and first non-classical musician to receive the award.)[43]
  • Performed winning composition "Every Road I Walked" at the 2007 ASCAP Foundation Annual Awards in New York.[43]
  • 2006–2009 Winner of twelve (12) Downbeat Magazine Student Music Awards. Jazz Soloist, Jazz Vocalist, Pop/Rock Blues Soloist, Composition, Extended Composition, Arrangement[48][49][50]
  • Recipient of the Berklee College of Music Superior Musicianship Award at 2007 Berklee High School Jazz Festival
  • Youngest ever winner of Fish Middleton Jazz Scholarship at the 2006 East Coast Jazz Festival.[43]
  • Winner of International Songwriting Competition ISC 2008 for her composition "101"[43]
  • Winner of two International Songwriting Competitions in 2006 & 2007 for her composition "Filosophical Flying Fish" (Every Road I Walked)[51]
  • Judged the top woodwind soloist and the top vocal alto soloist at the 2007 Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival[52]
  • 2008 Gibson/Baldwin Grammy Jazz Ensemble[53]
  • 2007 Betty Carter Jazz Ahead at the Kennedy Center in Wash. D.C.[54]
  • 2007 Steans Institute at Ravinia,
  • 2006, 2007 and 2008 Brubeck Institute Summer Jazz Colony[55][56][57]
  • 2006, 2007 and 2008 Stanford Jazz Residency Program.[58][59]


As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

Film credits[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Grace Kelly". Jazz at Lincoln Center. 
  2. ^ "DownBeat Critics Poll 2009". DownBeat Magazine. 
  3. ^ "Taos celebrates Frank Morgan". Taos News. 
  4. ^ a b "Top Ten College Women: The Musician". Glamour Magazine. 
  5. ^ a b c d Leopold, Todd. "The making of a prodigy". CNN. 
  6. ^ "Grace Kelly on NPR". 
  7. ^ a b Was, David. "The New Grace Kelly, A Young Jazz Star". NPR. 
  8. ^ a b Williamson, Don. "GRACEfulLEE by Grace Kelly & Lee Konitz". Jazz Review. 
  9. ^ a b Fischer, Doug. "Grace Kelly in the NAC Fourth Stage (concert review by Doug Fischer)". Ottawa Citizen. 
  10. ^ a b Goia, Ted. "Who is Grace Kelly?". 
  11. ^ Henderson, Alex. "Grace Kelly". AllMusic. 
  12. ^ "14-Year-Old Sax Prodigy Grace Kelly Set for Stardom". Sibelius. Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  13. ^ a b c "Grace Kelly". The Boston Phoenix. 
  14. ^ "Set List For January 2009 Tour". 
  15. ^ "Grace Kelly performs National Anthem at Boston Celtics 2009 playoff game.". Grace Kelly Music. 
  16. ^ "National Endowment for the Arts Celebrates 30th Anniversary of NEA Jazz Masters Program with Special Performances". 
  17. ^ "DownBeat Best CDs of The 2000s" (PDF). DownBeat Magazine. 
  18. ^ a b "Billboard Smooth Jazz Chart for 3/11 to 4/8/2013". Billboard. 13 April 2013. 
  19. ^ Goodwin, Jeremy D. "Grace Kelly Is Figuring It Out On The Fly". 90.9WBUR. 
  20. ^ Heckman, Don (February 13, 2008). "Yes, theres room for another Grace Kelly". Los Angeles Times. 
  21. ^ Jackson, Michael (November 2008). "Grace Kelly/Lee Konitz GracefulLee". DownBeat Magazine. 
  22. ^ Ruhlmann, William (October 2008). "GRACEfulLEE". Jazz Times. 
  23. ^ Drew, Mike (May 13, 2007). "Jazz Great Morgan Wows Home Crowd". Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. 
  24. ^ Dryden, Ken. "GRACEfulLEE". All About Jazz. 
  25. ^ "Ascap Young Composers Awards 2007". Ascap. 
  26. ^ Brooks, Michael (15 April 2013). "Second annual New England Music Awards blows the roof off Lowell Memorial Audit". 
  27. ^ "Featured Artists". Boise Jazz Society. 
  28. ^ "". 
  29. ^ "57th Annual Critics Poll". DownBeat Magazine. 
  30. ^ "59th Annual Critics Poll" (PDF). Downbeat Magazine. 
  31. ^ "60th Annual DownBeat Critics Poll Rising Stars". DownBeat Magazine. 
  32. ^ "61st Annual DownBeat Critics Poll" (PDF). DownBeat Magazine. Retrieved  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  33. ^ "62nd Annual DownBeat Critics Poll Rising Stars". DownBeat Magazine. 
  34. ^ "77th Annual DownBeat Critics Poll". DownBeat Magazine. 
  35. ^ "78th DownBeat Readers Poll Results". DownBeat Magazine. 
  36. ^ "79th DownBeat Readers Poll Results". DownBeat. 
  37. ^ "Ascap Young Jazz Composers Awards 2008". Ascap. 
  38. ^ "Ascap Young Jazz Composers Awards 2010". Ascap. 
  39. ^ "Ascap Young Composers Awards 2011". Ascap. 
  40. ^ "Tusciain Jazz Past Winners". Tuscian Jazz. 
  41. ^ "2010 Best Jazz Acts". The Boston Phoenix. 
  42. ^ "2009 Best Jazz Act". The Boston Phoenix. 
  43. ^ a b c d e "Grace Kelly". All About Jazz. 
  44. ^ "Best Jazz Act 2011". The Boston Phoenix. 
  45. ^ "Winners List". December 5, 2008. 
  46. ^ "2010 Winners List". December 3, 2010. 
  47. ^ "International Songwriters Competition Winners". 
  48. ^ "Student Music Awards". DownBeat Magazine. 
  49. ^ "Grace Kelly wins four student music awards". 
  50. ^ Balkin, Nick. "Berklee World Jazz Nonet Performs in DC". 
  51. ^ Symister-Masterson, Cheryl. "CD Title: Every Road I Walked". 
  52. ^ "Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival 2007, February 21–24.". 
  53. ^ "News". 
  54. ^ "10th Anniversary of Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead" (PDF). Kennedy Center. 
  55. ^ "2006 Summer Jazz Colony participants". University of the Pacific. 
  56. ^ "2007 Summer Jazz Colony participants". University of The Pacific. 
  57. ^ "2008 Summer Jazz Colony Participants". University of The Pacific. 
  58. ^ "News in the Stanford Jazz Community & Beyond". 
  59. ^ "Students and Faculty". 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]