BY JAMES FARRELL
When it comes to music, things have always come easily for Grace Kelly.
The award-winning saxophone phenomenon began playing saxophone at age 10, had her first show at a Borders book store six weeks later, recorded her first album at age 12 and has recorded nine more albums since— a total of 10 at the young age of 24 years.
The Massachusetts native credits her family’s versatile taste in music as the secret to her accelerated success. She grew up listening to jazz standards, classical music and the tenor saxophone stylings of Stan Getz. She was writing music at 7 years of age.
“I would sing along to all these jazz standards, so my ear was already really strong,” she told the Queens Tribune.
Kelly, who now lives in Astoria, will make her Queens debut on Feb. 24 at Flushing Town Hall. In anticipation of the event, she spoke to the Queens Tribune about her ongoing rise to stardom.
Kelly began her musical career learning classical piano at age 6, but her love for the sound of Getz’s saxophone on standards like “The Girl From Ipanema” and the other jazz music she listened to prompted an early love for horns.
“I would sing along to [Getz’s] solos and fell in love with his sound, so I kind of always knew in the back of my head that I wanted to play sax one day,” she said.
She eventually began taking private lessons with a teacher named Ken Berman, who saw something special in her abilities. It had been two years since Kelly started learning the sax and Berman thought that the 12 year old’s fast progress should be recorded.
“He thought what I was doing was pretty unusual and that I should document it,” said Kelly. “It just kind of organically became a career in music, it was never something that I intended.”
Her first album, “Dreaming,” was recorded in 2005, when she was 12 under Berman’s mentorship.
At age 14, she had one of her proudest moments when she played with the Boston Pops Symphony Orchestra and debuted her first orchestral piece at Boston’s Symphony Hall. At 16, she was invited to perform at President Barack Obama’s inauguration by legendary jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Among her more recent accomplishments are a stint with the house band on Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” from December 2015 to May 2016 and a guest spot performing with her band in a scene on the Amazon series “Bosch.”
“For me, the biggest thrills are getting to play with other musicians that are such inspirations to me,” she said.
Some of her inspirations include jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, rock legend Huey Lewis and drummer and Questlove, the drummer for The Roots.
She cites a chance encounter with Marsalis in New York City— which was the beginning of a relationship that led to Obama’s inauguration— as a pivotal moment in her career.
“I was playing with a jazz trio there and he walked in for the second set and played with us,” recalls Kelly. “And then, like a week later, got a call from his people asking if I’d be a special guest with him and his orchestra.”
Kelly, who is excited for her Queens debut, said that she hopes that her show will attract fans of all genres—not just jazz.
“I like to explain my show to people as not a show that’s, like, just for jazz fans,” she said. “It’s important to me that the audience is along for the ride and that nobody is scratching their heads, but instead leaving with their hearts feeling full of joy and happiness.”
Tickets are available at flushingtownhall.org. For more on Grace Kelly, visit gracekellymusic.com, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter at @gracekellyPAZZ.
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @farrellj329.