The New Grace Kelly, A Young Jazz Star

The 14 year-old saxophone phenomenon is taking the jazz world by storm. Critics are swooning over the teenager's control of the alto sax. She's already made two CDs and is getting offers to perform in Spain and Singapore.


Back now with Day to Day. Pop and classical music seem to have lots of prodigies. But it's rare when jazz discovers a teenage talent. Resident musician and critic David Was has this review.

WAS: 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? Her name is as unlikely as her ungodly musical prowess at such a tender age. But her link to jazz royalty already makes her an heiress apparent to the throne.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: The Brookline, Massachusetts native has just released "GRACEfulLEE," her fifth album as a band leader. She began classical piano studies at the age of six, but was hooked by the sound of the alto sax due to her mother's enduring love for the music of Stan Getz.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: There are those in the genetics camp who deny that musical talent is inborn, attributing success more to work ethic and environment than a fortuitous allele on Gene 247. If determination and monomania are the criteria, Grace Kelly is well ahead of the curve. She's already completed the four-year jazz studies certificate program at the New England Conservatory of Music. She's also appeared with and written an arrangement for Boston Pops.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: If that isn't enough to at least grant her prodigy status, her major collaborator on the new CD is non other than alto sax legend Lee Konitz.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: Konitz made his name in the 1950s with Miles Davis and Stan Canton. Invited in to cameo on a few songs, he stayed long enough to work on the whole album, telling Grace, I give you permission to play better than me. Their two alto free-improvisation entitled "Buzzing Around" is a true mind-meld, and it's hard to say who's who at any given moment.

(Soundbite of song "Buzzing Around")

WAS: Sensitivity to other musicians is another requisite in the jazz world, and that gift is shown off in her duet with guitarist Russell Malone on the ballad "Just Friends."

(Soundbite of song "Just Friends")

WAS: Her sure sense of swing is showcased on the upbeat Konitz composition "Thingin'." But to really get an idea of her alluring combination of modesty and confidence, go to YouTube and watch Ms. Kelly sit in with Phil Woods, yet another alto sax immortal. She was only 14 at the time, but hearing her trade eight-bar phrases with Woods brought literal tears to my eyes. I've heard the future of jazz, and it is Grace Kelly.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: The name of the CD is "GRACEfulLEE." The musician is Grace Kelly. Our reviewer David Was is half of the musical duo Was (Not Was).

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