"Think of a layer cake with a dense Carmen McRae center, iced with swoops, dollops and occasionally wide swatches of Nancy Wilson and Billie Holiday, then dotted with Etta James bluesiness and Tina Turner wail. Gray’s is an impressive, indeed frighteningly vast talent". --Christopher Loudon, JazzTimes Magazine
THRU A GRAY FILTER
With her stunning musicality and warm, enveloping voice, Texas native Kellye Gray is one of the most accomplished jazz vocalists on the national scene. Gray’s profile continues to grow by leaps and bounds, recording over half-dozen albums as a leader and logging performances nationally and internationally at world-class venues and festivals including Lincoln Center, the Spoleto Festival, Yoshi's, SFJAZZ. Kellye has been honored to share the stage with legends Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Etta James, to name a few.
Her debut release, Standards In Gray (Justice Records) broke her onto mainstream radio in 1990 landing the fledgling, indie release into the top twenty. Her sound, crafted over years of live performance, comes from her belief that the voice is an instrument. "The real deal", says KCSM's Alisa Clancy. Gray began songwriting by 17. Self-taught on guitar she produced one-woman shows in art galleries to present her original compositions. By 19 years old she was working as a professional improvisational comic actor. Her skills landed her in the prized Stage Manager position where she learned the art of foley sound. She was using the voice in ways other than singing doing sound effects.
Her parents were dragging her to blues bars and strip clubs in Dallas' Deep Ellum district or to Gulf Coast roadhouses where they would dance to unknown acts like Clifton Chenier and B.B. King. You hear the blues and rhythm at the core of every note Gray sings.
It would be her dad's record collection that 'accidentally' taught her about jazz. She hung upstairs in her room with Zepplin and the Doors, Aretha and James Brown while her parents hung downstairs with Monk, Sarah and MJQ. It would be her sleepless nights that had her downstairs digging through the stacks in the living room, looking for something to help her sleep. It wouldn't be until she was 27 years old that those nights of sub-conscious jazz chords would be revealed onstage in her primal journey through her first scat solo.
Being a child of the 60's, television and radio were her gods. Television exposed her to the vaudevillian performers, comics, singers, musicians, dancers and entertainers becoming mentors and guides. Hers is an exciting live performance.
The latest release, And, They Call Us Cowboys (the Texas Music Project (grr8 Records), re-imagines the timeless and diverse music of the Lone Star State through the filter of Gray’s jazz sensibility. Critics and radio opened their arms to the record and add it to a list of collectable discography.
"This is a jazz singer of rare air.” says the International Music Review.
“Kellye Gray absolutely blows your socks off...what a voice! ” exclaims Glenn Daniels of thejazzpage.com
"Simply the most exciting singer to debut" says USA Today