COURTESY PHOTO The jazz singerLos Angeles-based jazz singer Julie Kelly is in Hawaii for two reunions: one with family on Kauai, and one on stage.
By Gary C.W. Chun
Her trip combines a long-overdue Kelly sibling reunion on Kauai with a reunion with jazz pianist Rich Crandall, with whom she performed in the '70s in the Bay Area.
Kelly's early travels included brief stays here and in Brazil, inspired to visit the South American country by her Hawaiian housemate from Fiji, who played albums like the classic "Getz/Gilberto" constantly.
Kelly has carved out a comfortable niche as a jazz singer, balancing her time between the occasional tour or workshop and family life. She said she plans to do "some standards, bebop and Brazilian tunes" with Crandall's trio tonight, plus some selections from an upcoming June Christy tribute album.
"It was long in the making," Kelly said last week by phone from Kauai, where she's staying with her husband and children at her brother's home near Kapaa. "When June died, I was thinking about recording a tribute to her, and with the help of her husband Bob Cooper and other musicians like Lou Levy -- who worked with June when they were both members of the Stan Kenton band -- and Pete Christlieb, this CD will be coming out in September."
Kelly met Christy at a gig in Sherman Oaks, Calif., back in 1982, "a time when her own career was winding down, and it was so cool that she took the time to talk to me briefly. Stylistically, we're not that similar, because I'm more bebop and blues and she was part of this cool, West Coast, big band sound. But what I did like about her was her dedication, the ability to navigate her way to find the heart of the song, whether it was some esoteric Kenton number or a trite pop song. She had this big, open-throat sound, very direct, accessible and vulnerable."
Like any enterprising musician, Kelly will also be featuring some songs from her most recent CD, "Into the Light" (copies will be available for sale at tonight's gig).
Between her singing dates, voice clinics and home life, Kelly said, "I've been able to work it out, a way to make a living comfortably. Even though I don't tour with a band, I've come to know a lot of promoters who will hire me, and I'm able to sing all over the place.
"With just my book of arrangements with me, I can pretty much recreate anything. All it takes is a little bit of courage, because there are great players everywhere to sing with.
"I've found my niche -- so long as the music resonates for me, and I'm in business for myself, I'm able to pursue my vision."
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Julie Kelly with the Rich Crandall Trio
Where: Studio 6, Musicians' Association building, 2nd floor, 949 Kapiolani Boulevard
When: 8 p.m. today
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