Celebrated jazz saxophonist Grace Kelly will be back in Amherst for the second time this year, bringing her quintet to play a concert originally scheduled for February. That show was snowed out, and Kelly’s new date will coincide with the Fine Arts Center’s Jazz in July program for young musicians.
The Grace Kelly Quintet will be performing at the FAC Concert Hall on Friday, July 11 at 8 p.m., as part of the 16th annual Billy Taylor Jazz Residency and in conjunction with Jazz in July. Her quintet includes Jason Palmer on trumpet, Evan Gregor on bass, Pete McCann on guitar and Ross Pederson on drums.
When it comes to Kelly, people seem to be divided into two groups: those who marvel at her proficiency, creativity and ever-accelerating growth, and those who have yet to encounter the 22-year-old wunderkind. The ranks of the former category are growing by the day. Trumpeter and Jazz at Lincoln Center artistic director Wynton Marsalis was so impressed with Kelly’s three-night stand as guest of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra that he invited her to join the ensemble at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater in Washington, D.C. for Barack Obama’s inauguration celebration. Harry Connick, Jr. heard Kelly in a master class on a December afternoon and brought her on stage to sit in with his band that night. Since then, Kelly has performed and recorded with the likes of Dave Brubeck, Wynton Marsalis, Phil Woods, Harry Connick Jr., Jamie Cullum, Esperanza Spalding, Toots Thielemans, Gloria Estefan, Questlove, Dianne Reeves, Huey Lewis, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Terri Lynn Carrington.
Kelly has been voted “Best Jazz Act” in Boston four consecutive years in the FNX/Phoenix Best Music Poll, and then voted Best National Jazz Act in 2012. She has received the ASCAP Foundation’s Young Jazz Composers Award in five times since 2007 and won “Jazz Artist of the Year” at the Boston Music Awards in both 2008 and 2010. The 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 Downbeat Critics Poll added her to the list, naming her one of the “Alto Saxophone Rising Stars,” the youngest artist ever to be named to the music poll. After releasing eight full-length albums, Kelly released her first single, “Sweet Sweet Baby,” which made it to No. 10 on the Billboard Magazine “Smooth Jazz Song Charts.”
As part of the Billy Taylor Jazz Residency, Kelly spent a week in February teaching and visiting classrooms in the area. She taught a master class at Northampton High School for the jazz ensemble, and another at Amherst College about improvising within a jazz combo. She also worked with a class on performance and visual arts at UMass. When she returns to campus in July, she will again work with students – this time as part of the Jazz in July program that pairs young musicians with jazz educators and artists for advanced training and performances.
Tickets for the Grace Kelly Quintet are $25 and $15; $10 for Five College and GCC students, and youth 17 and under. Call the Box Office at 545-2511 or purchase online at fineartscenter.com.