Friday, March 27, 2009

Grace Kelly at The Blue Room

Not bad for a kid. In fact, sixteen-year-old Grace Kelly proved that she's worthy of the "future-of-jazz" buzz at her Kansas City debut Thursday night at The Blue Room.

Technically flawless, Kelly's sophisticated and shockingly gruff saxophone tone closely resembles that of Charlie Parker acolyte Phil Woods. In fact, I don't think I'd be able to distinguish Kelly from the 77-year-old in a 30-second blindfold test.

It's not really a criticism to note that Kelly's solos lack the emotional depth of veterans like Woods or Sonny Rollins. There's no reason to think she won't get there after a few decades of hard knocks.

Her coy vocal style was less artistically rewarding but demonstrated that it's plenty good enough to bring commercial Diana Krall-style success should Kelly elect to go that route. In fact, the best moments of her first set came during a scat battle with Greg Carroll. After being challenged by the vibraphonist (and Director of the American Jazz Museum), Kelly responded with stylish aplomb.

Carroll's gratuitous bashing of popular music and Kelly's desultory original ballad "But Life Goes On" were the only sour notes of the first set. Pianist Michael Pagan played with elegance while bassist Bob Bowman and drummer Matt Leifer were excellent.

What does the future hold for Kelly? It's not a good indicator that the two children in the audience of 59 were visibly bored to tears. Pleasing elders is one thing. Exciting her peers poses a more formidable challenge for Kelly.

(Original images by Plastic Sax.)