Kellye Gray is cool. Not Miles Davis cool, though certainly she has some elements of that. It’s more like your best friend kind of 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. Kellye Gray is also a jazz singer. A good one at that, which is no small feat considering her predecessors. Raised on R&B and the Motown sound, Gray was turned on to jazz by her parents. First it was singers like Sarah Vaughn and Cris Connor. Then it was instrumental monsters like Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, The Modern Jazz Quartet and John Coltrane. “I didn’t discover Ella or Betty Carter until much later on,” she adds.
— Paul J. MacArthur, Houston Press
A Dallas native, Gray was a fixture in Houston (almost idol status) for several years before moving to San Francisco in 1992. Beginning her career on Austin’s Sixth Street, she provided a rare jazz experience that attracted the college crowd as well as the more sophisticated up-and-coming baby boomers. The San Francisco Examiner called her “a musically most imaginative tour de force.”
In 1990 her first album, Standards In Gray (Justice Records), soared to #12 on the Gavin Report, selling over 75,000 copies. Three years later, another chart-topper, Tomato Kiss (Proteus Recordings), helped her move into the national spotlight. An induction into the Texas Jazz Heritage Society along with moving to San Francisco continued to raise the bar and legitimized her as a career jazz vocalist. CMJ New Music Report said she “emerges with moxie and sophistication.”
Her career stalled in 2000 after death and divorce. Not one to be driven too far off-track, in 2002–2003 Kellye produced the double live album, Blue and Pink (Proteus Recordings). By early 2007 she had put a new team together and released the concert recording, Live at the Jazzschool (grr8 records).
Amazon.com and Epionions.com report comments like, “Kellye Gray simply blew me away. Very few female jazz singers have her range and soul.” And, “Kellye Gray is one of the finest singers I’ve ever heard on record or in person. She can blast away or quietly capture your heart.”
2008 opened with another live recording, KG3 Live! at the Bugle Boy (grr8 records), an acoustic trio project featuring classical guitar, acoustic bass and jazz voice. The trio recorded at the La Grange, Texas vintage WWII
army barracks venue. She is currently focused on new studio projects, including a duet recording with Mark Levine, another acoustic trio disc, and an original project.
Kellye has performed for dignitaries and heads-of-state. She has had the honor of sharing the stage with a wide variety of jazz, blues and R&B stars throughout the United States and the world. She regularly tours the U.S. and Europe,
performing at festivals and concerts and nightclubs. Some notable mentions have been the Spoleto Festival USA, Stanford Jazz Festival, Houston International Festival, the Jazz and Blues Heritage Festival, the San Francisco Jazz Festival, Yoshi’s, the Cinegrille, Snug Harbor, Lincoln Center, Les Caveaux de la Rochette, and many, many more.
“Simply the most exciting singer to debut” says USA Today.