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Words to Inspire

Vocalist Julie Kelly breathes life into old and new tunes.


Julie Kelly, a classy jazz vocalist, is always seeking new material. A fresh song, even one from 50 years ago, gives her a burst of inspiration. Lately she's found some dandy old ones, and some with a contemporary flair too.

Take "Into the Light," a modern blues tune written by ex-Art Blakey trumpeter Brian Lynch and outfitted with lyrics by Sunny Wilkinson, a former L.A.-based artist who now teaches at Western Michigan University.

"The words are great and have to do with women and energy and power," said Kelly, who lives in Studio City with her husband, Sam DiMaggio, and their son, Anthony. "And the melody is beautiful and sophisticated."

The tune will be the title track of her next CD, due out in October. Kelly also has been singing "I'd Give a Dollar for a Dime," a number from the '40s that the late, wondrous Joe Williams often sang.

"I love the sentiment, the emotion, the storytelling in a song like that," said Kelly, who recently earned a bachelor's degree in music from Cal State Northridge. "It's more than just music. It's like a window into the past."

The singer appears Wednesday at Monteleone's West with pianist Karen Hernandez's duo. She said she also will probably sing "Tomorrow Is Another Day," by vocalise pioneer King Pleasure, who wrote lyrics to recorded solos, in this case by sax giant Stan Getz.

Kelly has deep respect for Hernandez, a regular at San Fernando Valley jazz spots for nearly three decades.

"Karen's very sensitive in her style and extremely musical," the singer said. "Her attitude is great. She likes to have fun."

Sounds like Julie Kelly as well.


In Brief: Alison Wedding, a spirited jazz vocalist with a fondness for scat singing, arrives at Monteleone's on Thursday.

If you're in the mood for instrumentals, modern-minded pianist Cecilia Coleman leads her top-drawer quintet Thursday with trumpeter Steve Huffsteter and saxophonist Jerry Pinter at Rocco Ristorante in Bel-Air. (310) 475-9807.

At Spazio in Sherman Oaks, warm-toned trumpeter Sal Marquez enlists folks such as sax man Doug Webb and pianist David Goldblatt to play standards and jazz tunes, also Thursday, from 8 p.m. to midnight. (818) 728-8400.


Julie Kelly sings with the Karen Hernandez duo, Wednesday, 7-11 p.m., at Monteleone's West, 19337 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana. Call (818) 996-0662.


Zan Stewart writes about jazz for the Valley Edition. He can be reached at

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