Kelly, widely considered a jazz prodigy, first picked up the clarinet in fourth grade, but only as a means to getting what she really wanted, which was a saxophone in her hands. That would come soon after.
"I remember the first time I blew into the horn, it was like, 'Aaaah!'” she tell us on this episode of Soul Sisters, recorded at NYC's Chord Club.
"I got a nice sound right away. It just clicked," she recalls. "Six weeks after I started I had my first performance at Borders Books."
By the age of 12 Kelly recorded her first album and kept recording at a pace of almost an album a year. Her latest, Trying to Figure It Out, is her ninth full album as band leader. Kelly takes us through what it's like to fall in love with and make a career out of an instrument that many are surprised to find a woman can play that well.
"I can see it in their face, like, 'Oh, that’s nice, this little girl playing saxophone,'" she says, noting that as soon as people hear what comes out of that sax, however, it's "like no questions asked."
Check out the full episode, hosted by Billboard writer/content creator Jessie Katz and Parlour Tricks singer Darah Golub, below, which includes a live performance of Kelly's sultry new track Blues for Harry Bosch. And be sure to subscribe to our iTunes channel for all past and future Soul Sisters episodes!