FLORIDA BOUND: SINGER

               NANCY KELLY

by Lesley Mitchell-Clarkle

 

JAZZ VOCALIST NANCY KELLY IS AS well known for her charismatic and entertaining performing style as she is for her supple and dynamic voice. She can swing with the best of them, scat with idea ­infused abandon, and imbue a ballad with a deep emotional subtext that invariably con­nects with her audience. This month, Kelly will be ringing in the holiday season with four Florida appearances.

On December 9-10, the singer will return to one of her favorite haunts, Heidi's Jazz Club in Cocoa Beach , where she's played to sold-out crowds numerous times in the past. On December 13, she'll appear in a concert produced by JAMS at the Harriet Himmel Theatre, located at City Place in West Palm Beach . She'll be joined onstage by a trio led by Florida pianist Mike Order, whom Nancy calls "one of the best pianists anywhere". The following evening, she'll sing at a con­cert presented by the Gainesville Friends of Jazz at the Savannah Grande Reception Hall. She'll finish up her Florida swing on

December 16-17 with a return booking at the VanDyke, South Beach 's popular, jazz boite.

Rochester native Nancy Kelly is a charter member of the Upstate Burn Society, a loosely organized group that also includes Don Menza, Joe Romano and a number of other jazz illuminati from Upstate New York. By the age of four, Nancy 's musical talent was already apparent and she began

studying piano, clarinet, drama, dance – and eventually vocal technique at the Eastman School of Music. Her father was a classical music fan, and also a huge jazz buff. Her mother was a jazz pianist who, she recalls, never took her talent past the living room; so while growing up, Nancy was constantly exposed to jazz.

"As a teenager, I was interested in the Beatles, so I started a little pop/rock band. I was the only one who could sing. I loved singing. But I just didn't want to sing the melody - ever! I always wanted to change it. I think that it was this desire to improvise that led me into the arms of jazz. By the time that I was twenty-five, I was a full-fledged jazz singer".

Over the years, she's shared bandstands with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, Houston Person, Joey DeFrancesco, and (to quote Nancy), "the finest male jazz vocalist that this country has ever produced, Mark Murphy". She's also been co-billed with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Chick Corea, Dave Brubeck and George Benson. Her interna­tional gigs have included a recent engage­ment at the Meridien in Paris , along with stints in Singapore , Switzerland , Turkey and Japan . Nancy is also a familiar face in New York City , where she's headlined at both Birdland and the Blue Note.

Kelly has released a pair successful CDs - Singin' and Swingin' and LIVE Jazz - on the Amherst label. She cites an eclectic list of jazz  vocal influences, among them, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Carmen McRae. Two of her current favorites areDiana Krall, and Dee Dee Bridgewater.

Nancy Kelly's unique blend of musical chops, stage presence, instinctive good taste and warm personality have made her a favorite of musicians and audiences world­wide. The L.A. Jazz Scene was so impressed with one recent Kelly performance, that it gushed, "...without a doubt, Ms. Kelly is one of the most exciting singers in the business today."

 

Nancy Kelly's appearances include: Heidi's December 9 and 10, JAMS 's con­cert at the Harriet Himmel Theatre the 13, and Van Dyke 16 and 17.