For people of my generation the name Grace Kelly could only mean the blonde American actress who married Prince Rainer of Monaco way back in April 1956. In a sense she was the Meghan Markle of her day. Both ladies were American actresses who married into European royal families. Until her death in a car crash in 1982 Grace Kelly’s marriage and subsequent royal life had a fairy tale scandal free quality that has remained untarnished to this day.
For the current generation the name could only mean the young Asian-American saxophone player Grace Chung aka Grace Kelly. She is a musician, songwriter, and arranger who has produced and released recordings of her own, scored soundtracks, and tours with her band.
David Sanborn, Grace Kelly and Marcus Miller
Grace Chung was born in Wellesley, Massachusetts, to Korean parents, she moved to Brookline, Massachusetts, when she was 2 years old. She briefly played clarinet and classical piano before finding her voice on the saxophone. Kelly stated, “Saxophone reminds me of the human voice. And I always felt this very compelling, this feeling, that someone was singing to me. The Girl from Ipanema was on repeat in my household when I was a little girl and thought: ‘I wanna learn this one day.’ It’s one of the instruments that’s closest to expressing the human voice”. Her mother remarried in 1997 to Robert Kelly, who legally adopted Grace a few years later, thus changing her name to Grace Kelly. She wrote her first song “On My Way Home” at age seven. Kelly counts it a major breakthrough in her career when singer/songwriter Fred Taylor approached her after she sat in with vocalist Ann Hampton Callaway at Sculler’s. He offered to book her first headlining show at a major jazz venue. Kelly left Brookline High School at age 16 and earned her GED. After studying in the Jazz Department of the New England Conservatory of Music’s School of Preparatory Education she enrolled at Berklee College of Music, where at the age of 19 she graduated in December 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in professional music. Kelly studies or has studied saxophone with Jeremy Udden, James Merenda, George Garzone, Lee Konitz, Greg Osby, Jerry Bergonzi, and Allan Chase…….. Wikipedia
She was famously mentored by the late, great Phil Woods and has gone on to collaborate and record with many famous musicians. By any standard she is a heavy hitter in the world of Alto Saxophone.
Here are some clips of her work……….
Note: This was recorded at the Newport Jazz Festival in 2011. After a long struggle with the lung disease emphysema, Phil Woods died September 29, 2015. It is amazing that he continued to play at such a high level right up to his death.