One of the San Francisco Bay area's top jazz vocalists, Frankye Kelly puts a lot of honest feeling into her singing. "I interpret the songs that have the most meaning to me. I have a wide range and I can sound like any horn but I feel that the voice is its own instrument. I love to be one of the instruments in my band, singing from my heart."










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It was obvious from an early age that Frankye Kelly would be a singer. Living in Jackson, Mississippi for a few years with her grandparents, she remembers performing in a play when she was just three. Since her father was in the Air Force, her childhood was spent living in many different locations including California, Minnesota, Germany and Deleware and back to California. She heard the music of Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Sarah Vaugan along the way as well as Fats Domino and Little Richard although most of her early singing was in church, acapella groups and choirs.

Frankye married at an early age, moved to Detroit and became a professional singer. She mostly sang r&b during this period and had a local hit with her recording of Johnnie Mae Matthews' "I Have No Choice". She did backup singing for Marlena Shaw and for Roslyn Ashford formerly of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. She led her own group, Flyght, which matched her voice with that of four male singers. But then she chose to drop out of music for a time to raise her family.

After moving to San Francisco, in the 1980s, she gradually returned to singing, but this time performing jazz. Frankye received important guidance from her cousin, the late great blues master Albert Collins. At a family reunion, we talked about me wanting to sing jazz. The main thing that Albert told me is that it is up to me to please and reach my audience, and he told me to always sing what I feel. He flew me to a lot of his concerts to show me what it was like to be a musician and to see what the life was like. I say how hard he worked and was inspired.

Starting in 1989, Frankye Kelly has pursued her dream of being a jazz singer. "I wanted to sing jazz because of its freedom and because that way I could express myself the way I wanted. I studied jazz not only to learn the music but to learn myself. I didn't want to listen too closely to singers because I didn't want to copy anyone, so instead I listened constantly to Miles Davis. I always loved the way that he played. He would take his time, not rushing into it, and he played with a lot of feeling."

Among the many places that Frankye Kelly has performed in the Bay Area are Yoshi's, "Top of the Mark" at the Mark Hopkins hotel (with pop superstar Ricardo Scales), Jazz at Pearl's, Kimball's East, Kimball's West and at the Ritz Carlton Hotels in Half Moon Bay and San Francisco. She has sung at many jazz festivals including the San Francisco Jazz Festival, the San Jose Jazz Festival and the Fillmore Jazz Festival. In addition, she has performed in France, Mexico Japan and China.

Thus far Frankye has recorded three CDs. The Night is Young was recorded at Kimball's West and showed those at the time who were unfamiliar with her just how talented a jazz singer she is, serving as a strong introduction. My Life, More Than It Is: Not Just the Blues is an appealing mixture of pop, blues, r&b and jazz, displaying a great deal of variety but staying consistently rewarding. Her most recent cd, Live at Yoshi's, Frankye Kelly Sings Songs For My Father, was recorded on several occasions at Yoshi's Jazz House, and is a collection of some of her favorite jazz songs. It is dedicated to her father who was at all of the sessions and has since passed away.

In 2006, Frankye Kelly spent six months singing in China, performing in Shanghai during a pair of lengthy visits. In addition, she made some noteworthy appearances in the Bay area. Clearly with her talents, she is destined to have a much higher profile in the United States. Being a Buddhist, she has high aspirations for the future. "I want to continue to sing and teach, performing my music for large audiences. I am particularly interested in performing at more jazz festivals in the United States and Canada. I am working for world peace through music. I feel that jazz brings peace and love to all of those who hear it."

Ms Kelly's Biography written by Scott Yanow

Frankye Kelly's performances and recordings always bring enjoyment and smiles to her growing audience.

For reviews and quotes see and -- as well as the reviews page on this website and these letters of recommendation.

Ms. Kelly's CDs, The Night Is Young and My Life, More Than It Is, Not Just The Blues, and Live at Yoshi's Frankye Kelly Sings Songs For My Father, are now available for purchase online.

Please click one of the images to the right to place your order.


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