With her renowned, brilliant use of voice as instrument, jazz singer Kellye Gray has entertained dignitaries and heads-of-state, and shared stages with an impressive constellation of international jazz, blues and R&B stars in a career spanning twenty years. The San Francisco Examiner called her “a musically most imaginative tour de force.” Described as “stunning scat singing, instrumental simulations and dark-toned balladry” by the Los Angeles Times, Gray creatively uses her voice as part of the ensemble. JazzTimes magazine calls her ” an impressive, indeed frighteningly vast talent.”
Mostly self-taught, Gray has developed her own approach to singing jazz. Her performances highlight her strong sense of balladry with both vocal and lyrical interpretation, along with her funky sense of rhythm. Never limiting herself creatively, Gray blends scat, ballads, Latin, funk, soul, blues, solo and free styles into her shows.
Gray’s longevity is a testament to her mastery of her self-taught abilities and natural talent. Her twenty-year career has led her to performances in major venues such as the Lincoln Center, Yoshi’s, Cinegrille in Hollywood’s famous Roosevelt Hotel, New Orleans’s oldest jazz room Snug Harbor and in the jazz caves of Paris at Les Caveaux de la Rochette. Festival performances include the Spoleto Festival USA, Stanford Jazz Festival, Houston International Festival, Viva Musica! Festival (Slovakia), the Jazz and Blues Heritage Festival and the San Francisco Jazz Festival. Among the many unique experiences in her career, some special ones include singing for Dizzy Gillespie’s birthday party, opening for Ray Charles, and being included in the Great Day in San Francisco’s historical photo of west coast jazz musicians.
Beyond the music, Gray is known for her vivacious, comic personality and fun performances. The Houston Press wrote,”Kellye Gray is cool. … The kind of cool that makes you feel at ease. You want to shoot the breeze with her because she’s engaging, and you’ll laugh your ass off.”
A Dallas native, Gray began her singing career on Austin’s Sixth Street where she provided a rare jazz experience attracting the college crowd as well as the more sophisticated up-and-coming baby boomers. Gray blew up, as they say, while living in Houston before moving to San Francisco in 1992. Later a move to Los Angeles and now is based out of Austin. She tours nationally and internationally.
In 1990 her first album, Standards In Gray (Justice Records), soared to 12 on the Gavin Report. Also launching the careers of Dave Catney and Sebastian Whittaker, the album was recorded live to two-track in two days with no overdubs. The Sony SAD master was later released as an audiophile recording on vinyl, garnering national and international radio play and press.
Three years later, Gray’s first self-produced album Tomato Kiss (Proteus Recordings) was another chart-topper. It’s success, along with a move to San Francisco, and an induction into the Texas Jazz Heritage Society moved her into the national spotlight. CMJ New Music Report said she “emerges with moxie and sophistication.”
In 2002-2003 her double live album, Blue and Pink (Proteus Recordings). was recorded during two nights at Ovations in Houston. Released separately, Blue featured ballads, bossas and blues while Pink featured bebop, swing, funk and beyond.
In early 2007 she released Live at the JazzSchool (Grr8Records) a live concert recording straight off the sound board at the Jazz School in Berkeley, California, with the amazing Venezuelan pianist Otmaro Ruiz, Cuban drummer Jimmy Branly and Texas/LA bassist Hamilton Price.
In 2008 she released KG3 Live! at the Bugle Boy (Grr8Records), a live acoustic trio project featuring classical guitar, acoustic bass and jazz voice recorded at the La Grange, Texas, vintage WWII Army barracks venue.
In 2009 Gray produced and starred in “Everything Must Change,” a soulful jazz standard turned video that takes place atop the stunning cliffs of San Francisco’s Fort Funston and inside the city’s glamorous Jardinière restaurant. Created to express the inevitability of perpetual change in life the film spotlights the specific need for evolution in the Marriage Equality Movement.