“He meandered from the Ganges to Delta blues, bluegrass, flamenco and a folk idiom so heartfelt it bordered on the devotional.”
--Larry Cosentino, City Pulse
"Elden Kelly's music is like a chance meeting of brilliant forces embodied in one person: his illuminated guitar playing, hauntingly pure singing and expansive songwriting are all on the same quest of metaphysical discovery in which he includes us, the lucky listeners,"
“divinely inspired…in both style and tone, his voice evokes memories of another grace-struck tunesmith, Jeff Buckley."
--Dan Bolles, Seven Days Magazine
Guitarist, composer and singer Elden Kelly has captivated audiences across the country with his masterful writing and improvisational ability. His music thrives at the nexus of jazz, classical and world music, combining a deep knowledge of music with astounding and engaging performances.
His sets are marked by exploration and stylistic range, combining jazz with a broad range of global music traditions, instrumental work and original songs. His solo instrumental act is enriched due to his skillful contrapuntal performance on guitar, which simulates the harmonies, lines and rhythms that often require a larger ensemble to create. His technique was described by former instructor guitarist Joe Morris as “phenomenal, ” and was developed from melding classical guitar technique with approaches from music around the world such as Spain, India, and West Africa. He has even developed his own syncretic style on various instruments including the Glissentar, an 11-string fretless guitar.
Background & Education
Kelly was raised in Vermont and has been playing guitar, singing and writing songs since he was 10. He graduated from Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music with a degree in Contemporary Improvisation. Thereafter, he accepted a full scholarship and teaching assistantship at Michigan State with Rodney Whitaker, earning a master’s degree in Ethnomusicology. Since then, he has made his home in Lansing, MI.
Collaborations of Note
He has performed at the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, Jordan Hall, Lansing Jazz Festival, Michigan Sacred Music Festival, the Dirty Dog Jazz Café, Riverside Arts Center, Kerrytown Concert House, the Ten Pound Fiddle Series, among many others. He has performed or recorded alongside Grammy award-winning artists Regina Carter, Rhonda Larson, and was a session guitarist alongside Bakithi Kumalo and percussionist Jamey Haddad. In addition to performing with his own trio featuring percussionist Carolyn Koebel, he leads The Outrospectives, a quintet melding Detroit’s legendary Ralphe Armstrong and drummer Gayelynn McKinney master saxophonist Tucker Antell and world-renowned accordionist Cory Pesaturo.
Elden has taught at Jackson College and Jackson Community Music School and is currently professor of jazz guitar at Kalamazoo College. For years he has lead sold-out group workshops at Elderly Instruments music shop in Lansing, MI and maintains a private teaching studio of over 45 students.
Kelly's recorded offerings are just beginning to showcase the scope and diversity of his ability. His 2007 release with vocalist Le Zhang, Dreams of Yesterday features a mix of jazz, and chinese folk songs. His follow-up CD, 1000 Doors is a compilation of original music settings for solo voice and guitar of the sacred writings of the Baha’i Faith. His 2010 Solo EP, is a collection of his original songs and instrumentals. October 2012 he was featured on the Tia Hanna Project’s The Spaces Between Us, a live improvised album with vocalist/violinist Tia Imani Hanna and percussionist Carolyn Koebel. January 2013 saw the release of Solo Sessions, Volume 1, a contemplative instrumental guitar album that highlights Kelly’s interest in blurring the line between composition and improvisation. In the intervening years he was featured on a number of releases with Carolyn Koebel, percussionist including Breathing Together, Oscillations and From the Ethers. Spring of 2019 he will release the live album The Outrospectives: Dancing Light on Cold Plunge records featuring the music of Gregg Hill, jazz composer.