Grace Kelly blows the roof off at Earshot

Grace Kelly, photo by Jimmy Katz


“Keep shouting and cheering.” – Grace Kelly addressing the crowd at Tula’s on Wednesday night.


During a festival that featured a variety of fine saxophonists, 19-year old Grace Kelly might have been the most highly anticipated of the group, making her first trip to Seattle as part of the Earshot Jazz Festival.

It is clear that Grace enjoys what she is doing. Kelly performed to a sold-out crowd at Tula’s Wednesday night, with her show the following night also already booked to capacity. Performing in a quintet (with trumpet, piano, bass, and drums), Kelly projects a genuine happiness while performing.

But the crowd was treated to more than a positive stage presence. This isn’t a case of people coming to see a show based on some novelty of seeing a talented teen on stage. By the time she was 14, Kelly had already gained the attention of Wynton Marsalis, Dave Brubeck, and Phil Woods, and while her career might still be in the early stages, her playing is not.

The audience immediately became enamored with Kelly, who wasted no time bringing energy to the show with songs like Moanin’ and an uptempo version of The Way You Look Tonight. As it is often found in live performances, Kelly took this opportunity to explore some intense, upbeat improvisation often not found on studio recordings seeking out radio airplay.

“I can already tell I like this place. I was just in San Francisco, where they clapped, but they were very polite. Keep shouting and cheering. It helps us (the band) out.” – Grace Kelly addressing the crowd at Tula’s on Wednesday night.

Grace also took to singing on several occasions, featuring a couple of original compositions that seemed to have some personal background. The song Eggshells was inspired by a conversation she had where she was told by the other person that he felt like he was walking on eggshells. Another original vocal tune, Nothing to do with Me, was described simply as a “sad song”, but also seemed to have personal meaning. Here is a video of Grace singing from when she visited the KPLU studios the next day.

Grace then countered the “sad song” with her Happy Theme Song, and all seemed right in the world again. Kelly showed off her versatility with a rocking original tune called Filosophical Flying Fish, saturated heavily with a strong New Orleans foundation.

One true test to see if a fresh face musician is more than just something that is trendy is whether or not that musician can keep the attention of the audience for the entire show. The crowd never lost their enthusiasm, lined up for CD’s and autographs for the entire intermission, and eagerly anticipating the second set. Grace Kelly is the real deal.

Other saxophone highlights from the 2011 Earshot Jazz Festival

Tula’s also hosted two very notable saxophonists the previous week. Wessell “Warmdaddy” Anderson offered up a soulful performance with local all-stars Bill Anschell (piano), Phil Sparks (bass) and Devon Lewis (drums). If Anderson hadn’t mentioned that his horn had been damaged on the flight and he would need to get it repaired the next day, I doubt anyone would have noticed. “Warmdaddy” raised the temperature in the room with highlights like I Remember April and Change of Heart Blues.

Vancouver, B.C. saxophonist Cory Weeds arrived at Tula’s the following night, with a tribute to the great saxophonist Hank Mobley. Joining the trio of sax, guitar, and drums was Mike LeDonne, one of the leading Hammond B3 organists on the scene today. While at times I found it a bit difficult to hear Weeds soloing over the band, the set cooked with intense solos that escalated in energy as it was constructed. Highlights included LeDonne’s composition Perfectly Hank and Straight, No Filter.

Earshot Jazz Festival reaches its peak with Keith Jarrett

“Everyone thinks that I am serious all the time. Do you know anyone who is serious ALL the time? If you do, that person should be in a straight jacket.” – Keith Jarrett during his performance at Benaroya Hall November 1st.

photo by Rose Anne Colavito

I had never seen Keith Jarrett perform live before. I had only heard his wonderful recordings and heard some interesting stories about the demands he has on his audience.

The trio, made up of Keith Jarrett on piano, Gary Peacock on bass and NEA Jazz Master Jack DeJohnette on drums, is considered by many to be the premier jazz trio on the planet, and was the headlining performance at this years Earshot Jazz Festival.

Prior to the show Tuesday at Benaroya Hall, we received our warnings as audience members. No audio recording. No video recording. Turn your cell phones completely off. No pictures of any kind, at all, including while the group is taking a bow (we received these instructions again after intermission).

Even if you haven’t heard the rumors of Jarrett stopping in the middle of a song because someone coughed, it was quite clear now: stay quiet.

A dozen notes into the first song, a baby started to cry. Jarrett stops, and starts over.

A cell phone rang out loud right behind me in the middle of song number four. The owner of the phone seemed far less terrified of the consequences than I did, as he pulled out his phone and asked “Now who could that be?”

“Some people ask me why I don’t bring my cell phone up on stage with me. It’s because I don’t want to interrupt you.” – Keith Jarrett addressing the crowd after intermission.

All of the speed bumps aside, the concert was excellent, and appreciated greatly by the sold out crowd. The trio has performed together for a long time, and one thing that stood out to me was the complete understanding they seemed to have of each other on stage. No eye contact, no gestures. Just their ears and ability to anticipate one another founded on a long standing work relationship and virtuosic talents.

The trio covered the spectrum of standards, highlighted with beautiful ballads like I’ve Got a Crush on You and  Body and Soul. They showed off an ability to get a bit funky with their version of Fever, and swung hard on Clifford Brown’s Joy Spring.

The highlight for me was their version of The Meaning of the Blues, which really allowed each individual on stage to shine, not necessarily with solos, but almost as a demonstration of each performers individual talents fused together to make a seamless trio.

The group treated the crowd to multiple encore performances, including a beautiful version of When I Fall in Love.

While certainly interesting, the concert was no doubt a treat and an rare opportunity for those who had a chance to see it.