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Grace Kelly was born in Boston, US, on May 15, 1992 to Korean parents. I asked what made her choose jazz and the saxophone in particular.
“I have always loved music and listened to all kinds of music from jazz to classical. I fell in love with the saxophone because of Stan Getz. I heard his recordings and simply loved his sound. He’s my inspiration. The saxophone reminds me of the human voice. It’s so warm and expressive.
“The reason I fell in love with jazz was the freedom to improvise. The first time my teacher said I should improvise he said I could use any notes I felt like playing. I was hooked from then on. I still think it’s the coolest thing to be able to come up with anything I want at the moment.”
She has recorded with Lee Konitz and Phil Woods.
“They are mentors of mine and people I admire tremendously. I have been listening to them since I was very young. They are from very different schools of music, but that’s the reason I admire them so much.
“When I first heard Lee Konitz, I was listening to Lennie Tristano’s music. I had no idea what they were doing on those recordings, but I was just fascinated with the music.
“Phil Woods comes from a more Charlie Parker school, and I have a great love for that music as well. Working with them has been really interesting because I have learnt many different music lessons. It’s kind of like putting on a different hat. I consider myself to be a very versatile musician, and I love the challenge of being in different situations.”
Has she had any problems as a female musician?
“I have been very lucky to have the jazz community really embrace me despite my differences, like my appearance, being young, female and Asian. These are all thing that are very different. For the most part it’s just people being so wonderful and kind to me. There have been occasions when being female has worked against me because somebody has something personal against me, or is just racist in that way. But it hasn’t happened too much.
“I’m grateful it’s 2012 and people’s mindsets seem to be more open, and young people are coming up and there isn’t too much discrimination.”
As far as the direction jazz is moving in, she says: “I think it’s a very exciting time for jazz because to me it’s always been an art form where people have created something new, for instance, Miles Davis taking Broadway songs and turning them into jazz standards, bebop going into fusion. There’s always something new. Right now younger players are coming up and melding jazz with pop and rock and various things. I think that is rather an exciting thing because they’re innovating things, and that goes for me as well. I studied a lot of traditional jazz and also worked on doing new music, everything from pop stuff to jazz. I’m working on creating a sound that blends together different genres.”
She doesn’t like being boxed into any particular form of music, and as an artist she says she plays everything from jazz to funk to Brazilian music.
“I’m a saxophonist, I sing, compose and arrange.”
Although she came here a while ago for a charity concert, she is very excited about coming back to Joburg: “I had such an amazing time. The history in South Africa is so rich and the music is inspiring.”
• Grace Kelly will be part of Sax Summit, playing the music of Kiepie Moeketsi, at The Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival in Newtown on August 23. Book at Computicket.