Over the course of 20 years, a dozen albums, and innumerable performances at top New York jazz venues and festivals, saxophonist Chris Kelsey has established himself as one of the most visionary improvisers and band leaders on the contemporary scene. Called “a provocateur in the best sense of the term: a player (and writer) who thrives on pushing buttons,” by Derek Taylor of All About Jazz, and “at the forefront of the fiery reedists today,” by Gapplegate Music Review, Kelsey’s music follows in the tradition of individualism and innovation that has long distinguished the greatest jazz artists, from Beiderbecke to Bird to Miles and Ornette. Kelsey’s unique concoction of the modern and post-modern results in music that defies easy description; music inevitably characterized by unlimited imagination and unfiltered intensity.
Kelsey began playing alto sax at the age of ten in his home state of Oklahoma. After graduating with a Bachelors of Music Education from the University of Central Oklahoma, Kelsey moved to New York City, where he refined and expanded the performing career he’d begun as a student. He recorded his first album, Stomp Own It, in 1993 for his own Saxofonis Music label. A series of CDs on the CIMP label followed, featuring such top-rank NYC experimental jazz musicians as Steve Swell, Dominic Duval, Jay Rosen, and Francois Grillot. Kelseys bands have played many of New Yorks most important venues for jazz and new music, including the Knitting Factory, Roulette Intermedia, P.S. 122, CBs 313, and many others. Hes also played at many of the citys top summer festivals, including the Knits “What is Jazz? Festival; also the Bell Atlantic, Heineken, and Texaco New York Jazz Festivals. Kelsey began a parallel career as a music journalist in the mid 90s, contributing to such publications as Jazziz, JazzTimes, The All Music Guide to Jazz, and others, as well as editing the website Jazz.com with author/pianist Ted Gioia.
Kelseys most recent album also is also his oldest; Stutches, on the Unseen Rain label, was recorded in 1991 but released for the first time in 2011. Upcoming projects include an album by Happy House, a quartet he co-leads with the trombonist Pat Hall and devoted to reinterpreting the compositions of Ornette Coleman. Kelseys group Where Fakebooks Fear to Tread interprets his original tunes, and masterpieces by underappreciated composer/performers of the 70s and 80s. An ensemble inspired by the electronic music of Miles Davis is also in the works.
Kelsey lives in Pawling, in Dutchess County, New York. He and his wife Lisa are parents of two children, son Jasper and daughter Meret.
Chris performs exclusively with Dakota Sax models Straight Alto and Soprano Saxophones.