Nights out

By JON GARELICK  |  November 10, 2008

And finally, the disconcerting realization that Grace Kelly can play. The 16-year-old Brookline alto-saxophonist and singer, who’s been releasing CDs since she was 12, filled Scullers last Thursday anticipating the 2009 release of Mood Changes (Pazz). It wasn’t that Kelly’s solos tore the house down — but they were all poised, with unpredictable patterns, expressive intonation, and sure phrasing, from the up-tempo opener, “I’ll Remember April,” to Bill Withers’s “Ain’t No Sunshine” and a handful of respectable originals that included the convincing bebopper “Happy Theme Song.” And when she sang “It Might As Well Be Spring,” her Ella phrasing didn’t sound like a kid’s, though her age did add another level or irony to lines like “I’m as giddy as a baby in a swing.” Every tune had a rhythmic or melodic hook, and when she played an encore of “Over the Rainbow,” she didn’t ham it up — she laid back on the melody, with spare embellishment, and let the song and her sound do the work.

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