By David Steinberg
Plug the earbuds in and listen to Grace Kelly’s new jazz CD “Trying to Figure It Out.”
You’ll be stunned. The performances are hot-wired into bluesy music that is electric. And eclectic.
The album opens with Kelly’s hip “Blues for Harry Bosch.” and it gets hipper on Mocean Worker’s remix of it. (Track 11)
Background: Bosch is the protagonist in Michael Connelly’s popular LA-based crime novels and in the Amazon Prime detective series “Bosch.” Kelly, an alto saxophonist, is seen playing in an episode in the just-released Season Two of the series.
Kelly also tips her hat of gratitude to Connelly on her tenderly wrought cut “Ballad for MC.”
The CD’s title cut, which she composed, has a bouncy 1950s New Orleans feel. On it, Kelly shines as instrumentalist and vocalist.
Her fragile vocals evokes the sadness unlying Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile.”
Another cut, “By the Grave,” is a dirge. Behind Kelly’s mournful sax, you can hear pounding footsteps that deepen the darkness of the tune.
On “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” it seems as if the tonal colors of Kelly’s sax have magically assumed the qualities of the human voice. The track is also on “Sound of Redemption,” the bio-pic of the late alto saxophonist Frank Morgan.
There’s an easily understood double meaning of the cut “Amazing Grace,” the hymn. The arrangement is a lively throwback to the style of the funk-jazz band Stuff.
The 13-cut CD closes with Kelly’s thrilling phrasing leading the way on the jump-up “Lemons Make Lemonade.” It features Jon Batiste, music director of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
Despite the uncertainty the album’s title conveys, in reality Kelly has figured it out. She’s a whiz kid.
PS: Late last year, Kelly played at Albuquerque’s Outpost Performance Space, at the Frank Morgan Jazz Festival in Taos and in three other New Mexico cities.