Friday, March 18, 2011

Grace Kelly and Phil Woods: Man with the Hat

Pazz Productions LLC
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Man with the Hat

You aren’t a jazz fan if Phil Woods' name is unfamiliar. At the opposite end of the age spectrum, Grace Kelly is more than 60 years his junior. Both play alto sax, and Kelly performed on stage with Woods when she was just 12 years old!

The two met while Kelly was attending the Stanford Jazz Residency Program in California, where Woods was an instructor. Several months later, at a concert in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, he invited her on stage. After their performance, he was impressed enough to "knight" her with the iconic leather cap he always wears.

Even that wasn’t really the beginning. Kelly took piano lessons when she was 6, then clarinet and saxophone classes in the fourth grade. Stan Getz and Charlie Parker were initial catalysts. An instructor was impressed enough to arrange for her first recording at the age of 12; this album is her fifth. During that period, she has performed at more than 500 concerts, and currently is a student under a full scholarship at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music. It’s difficult to find a name musician she hasn't performed with.

This album also features three additional primo artists: pianist Monty Alexander, bassist Evan Gregor and alternating percussionists Bill Goodwin and Jordan Perlson. Two of the tunes are composed by Kelly, and one by Woods; the rest are jazz standards done by Billy Strayhorn ("Ballad for Very Tired and Very Sad Lotus Eaters"), Cole Porter ("Every Time We Say Goodbye"), Jerome Kern ("The Way You Look Tonight") and Benny Carter ("People Time").

Everybody is excellent, and Kelly is outstanding. She’s more than a prodigy; she's an "original" and, most important, she swings. Her intonation is a bit weak at times, but more experience will take care of that.

This young lady has "it" ... and her path ahead should be clear.

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