30 April 2014

A STROLL WITH GRACE KELLY (For International Jazz Day)

            "If you have to ask what Jazz is, you'll never know" ~Louis Armstrong 

Beyound off-chords, complex scales and all that jazz, Jazz music to me, is a conversation in a language reserved for 'matured minds'. It's a conversation I've being in love with for almost a decade. No thanks to my best bud, Hosea, who initiated me into this wonderful genre of music with the sound of his guitar.

However, I know someone who enjoys this 'conversation' much more than I do, and has done so for a much longer time. Well, that's because she's part of this conversation. Grace grew up with music all around her and started taking classical piano lessons at 6. She later changed to Jazz it was obvious she preferred making up her own melodies rather than playing notes that have already been written on paper.

With a degree in Professional music, numerous prestigious awards, and constant praise from jazz greats, Grace is surely a legend in the making. Grace told me about her music, her life, her dreams,
and all that jazz ☺ . Here's my stroll with Grace Kelly.

Ebenezar: Thank you so much for having this stroll with me, Grace

Grace: Thank you for having me.

(Image Credit: datadiary)
Ebenezar: Today is International Jazz Day and the aim is to celebrate the virtues of Jazz as a unique genre of music. One virtue I truly love is the freedom of improvisation; what other virtues do you think Jazz has?

Grace: Jazz to me absolutely does mean freedom. It also means spontaneity and expression. Those three words are what makes jazz so attractive to me. It lets me feel free to say what I want to say through the music and express who I am.

Ebenezar: A study done sometime ago suggests that young people who listen to Jazz music regularly have well developed minds and are able to think deeply. What can you say about the impact of jazz music on your life?
Grace: Jazz has helped me "go with the flow" in my own life. I started improvising from such a young age and it became a part of who I am. It's easy for me to adapt to new situations and work with others. I've learned to improvise through problems that may arise and I always keep my ears open to collaborating with others and listening to their suggestions. Jazz is very much a team work genre and I've learned to use that in everyday life as well.


Ebenezar: Growing up did you try playing other genres of music? 

Grace: Yes! And I still love playing all sorts of genres! I love good music. It doesn't matter what it's called .. If its good I want to listen to it, I want to play it! The very first song I wrote when I was 7 was a country song called "on my way home" (I went on to record it on my first CD when I was 12.) when I was much younger I loved Singing Broadway show tunes. My dream from when I was 6years old was to become a Broadway star!
Ebenezar: So what got you so attached to Jazz music?

Grace: Once I found the sax at the age of 10 I was hooked. I fell in love with the instrument and always wanted to practice and play. My first teacher (hes a jazz saxophonist and pianist) then started telling me recordings to listento, gave me songs to learn and I started learning about the history of the music and the players. Ultimately what excited me about playing jazz was improvising. I love improvising!!!

Grace and Phil performing
Ebenezar: Your 6th album was a collaboration with the jazz legend Phil Woods. What was the experience from making this album like?

Grace: It was totally surreal and amazing. Phil Woods is a saxophone legend and I've grown up listening to him on recordings.

The CD was treated like a live CD. We did no more than 2 takes on every song. I wrote my own tune in tribute to Phil called "Man with the Hat." It was amazing to hear our sounds blend together on a song I had written for him! I was so excited to have Monty Alexander on piano, that was the first time we had worked together. I've always been a huge fan of his and when the idea of this cd came up, he was the person who came to mind. Bill Goodwin played drums on it and really glued everything together, he is so swinging!! Evan Gregor played bass. Evan has been playing in myregular touring band for a while now. He actually grew up where Phil lives and was a student of his.

Ebenezar: What do you do when you're not with a sax or microphone? That is, besides music what other things do you do?
Grace: I love dancing, writing, hanging out with friends. I love watching the food network programs and just relaxing.. Yoga is also great for me and so is biking!!  
Ebenezar: The life of a jazz musician is practice, practice, practice--and I know this first hand--my best bud Hosea; a jazz musician in Nigeria rehearses like forever and sometimes I have to drag him away from it. So I'm wondering, how do you manage to make out time to have fun and do other fun stuffs young people your age do?

Grace: I think it's all about balance. I'm still trying to figure out the balance that's right for me because most of the time I'm always on the go whether its touring, practicing, recording or writing. I love doing it all! But yes, it's always good to relax with something else as well. I have great friends that I love going out with and grabbing food with or hanging out on a pretty regular basis (when I'm in town) and that's always a great way to get a break, relax and have a few good laughs

The Grace Kelly Quintet on stage
Ebenezar: Considering your age you've achieved so much in music that many adults can only dream of. Now, despite all this, are there still goals you'd like to achieve before you grow old?

Grace: Yes. There are so many goals for me and everyday Im learning something new. I am a multi instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, arranger and Educator.. And I love wearing all those hats.

Ebenezar: (hahah) So many hats if you ask me, I hope they don't spoil your hair-do?

Grace: (hahaha) As you can imagine that keeps me very busy and my wish list long, but that's the exciting part!

Ebenezar: Okay, Is winning a Grammy on that wish list?

Grace: Yes it is!! One day I hope to win a Grammy or Grammies!
  Ultimately the reason why I make music is to touch people and heal them. It would be such an honor to be recognized by the recording academy and applauded by them for what I'm doing. That is what a Grammy means to me, and what an amazing experience it would be to receive one!

Ebenezar: Thank you so much once again for doing this with me.
Grace: Thank you, my pleasure ☺

For more about Grace and to follow her next gig, visit gracekellymusic.com

Jazz music embodies life because, just like jazz, in life, you don't know what will come next sometimes. How do you handle those unexpected notes and turns in our lives? Jazz will teach you that no matter how awful an off-chord sounds, it's all music.

When we learn to embrace life the way it comes, and use the off-planned situations--off-chords--all to make music, then we can be assured of making a great melody out of our lives. Happy International Jazz day to all Jazz lovers out there.

Here's a jazz poem I wrote sometime ago entitled; 'I don't blow my trumpet'. Till my next stroll, Jesus Loves You.


I don't blow my trumpet

I leave it inside its dusty case
Under my bed
Where the rats race

I don't blow my trumpet

Our neighbour down the street does
Sitting on his balcony
He blows it for the world to hear

I don't blow my trumpet

Not for fright of flight of the bumblebee
For me, blowing it is sin
But when others blow it
I can give glory to Him

"I have a mystery in my mind that I will explain while playing my harp" (Psalm 49v4 CEV)

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