It was the middle of her set at Lexington’s Tee Dee’s music club. Jazz vocalist Jessie Laine Powell was, as usual, holding the room in the palm of her hand, but she was fighting off a cold and needed a brief break to let her voice recover. Over to stage right stood a woman Jessie had just met earlier in the day as a fellow panelist at a Women in Jazz discussion hosted by the Origins Jazz Series at the Lyric Theater. She said she could sing. And she had brought along a ukelele. Jessie invited her up to the mic to spell her for a song. We, in the audience, had no idea what to expect.
Then, something like this happened…
Kelle Jolly brought the house to its feet with a performance of Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues and everyone hoped the Origins folks would book her for a show of her own.
They did. And it’s coming. January 26 at Tee Dee’s (info & tickets here).
It turns out that Kelle Jolly has serious Soul Jazz credentials of her own. She is into her fifth year as host of Jazz Jam with Kelle Jolly on Knoxville public radio station WUOT. There are plans for a tv taping in April to celebrate. And she participates in conferences and gatherings around the country that focus on art, rural/urban arts and community building.
“A couple of years ago, I would host singer jam sessions. I would hire the rhythm section. Singers would come with charts and sing,” Kelle told me in a text exchange. “Some went from doing the jams to performing locally.”
Kelle records and sings with her husband, saxophonist Will Boyd. He’ll join her onstage at Tee Dee’s on the 26th along with drummer Kenneth Brown, David Becher on bass and keyboardist Jason Day.
“Our set will include freedom songs, spirituals, original songs from the album Will Boyd Live at the Red Piano Lounge, and jazz standards,” Jolly said. “We play traditional African American music spirituals, jazz, blues, and soul. Our set is about freedom. Jazz is freedom.”
Yes, indeed it is.