Daniel Kelly - Composer & Pianist
Award-winning composer and pianist Daniel Kelly transforms the stories of everyday people into dramatic and compelling music that blends jazz, classical and folk music into a signature sound.
His music has been declared “powerfully moving” by Time Out New York, and he has brought his unique talent to performances with Grammy award-winning jazz legends Michael Brecker and Joe Lovano, hip-hop star Lauryn Hill, and modern classical giants the Bang on a Can All-Stars, among many others.
He has toured throughout Southeast Asia and India as a part of the Kennedy Center and US State department-sponsored Jazz Ambassador program. Other notable international tours include benefit concerts for orphan children in the Kibera slums of Nairobi, Kenya; a performance for the president of Costa Rica and a summer-long European tour with hip-hop star Lauryn Hill.
Daniel’s most recent work is RAKONTO - a groundbreaking series of concert-length, community-based compositions that incorporate the recorded voices and stories of community members.
Since 2011, Daniel has been commissioned by the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) in five different communities throughout New York State to create new concert-length works in his RAKONTO series. Daniel and his ensemble, made up of some of the finest talent from the New York City jazz scene, performed these works to great acclaim. The Programming Director at the Doctorow Center for the Arts called Daniel’s most recent RAKONTO concert “A triumph. The effect of this concert is still being felt throughout our community.”
His RAKONTO project was also awarded a Chamber Music America Residency Partnership Grant to work with middle school students in the classroom, setting their lyrics to music. These were performed at the Queens Jazz Overground Jazz Festival and recorded on CDs that were distributed to the participating students.
Daniel has released five CDs of original compositions, including World, which blends Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music and features guest DJ, RJD2; Duets with Ghosts, which combines samples of voices from old archival recordings with a hard-edged Downtown New York electric quartet; Portal, an improvised solo piano suite that arose from his continuing series of improvised solo piano concerts; and Emerge, a new take on the jazz piano trio, infusing it with the energy and drive of rock music; and Rakonto: A Sounding of Community Voices which features the voices and stories of immigrants living in one of New York City’s most ethnically diverse communities.
Daniel has exhibited his commitment to arts education and young audiences by performing in schools and in artistic multi-media works for family audiences. His most notable collaborator is storyteller David Gonzalez. In addition to performing in hundreds of schools, they have toured to scores of performing art centers throughout the US and Canada and the Royal National Theatre in London. They developed several multi-media theatrical works, including The Frog Bride: the Drama Desk-nominated work that premiered at the New Victory Theater on Broadway and incorporated Daniel’s music with the music of Russian composer Prokofiev and video images of paintings by Kandinsky. Their collaborations Sleeping Beauty and Man of the House both enjoyed sold-out runs at the Kennedy Center. David and Daniel have also been Lincoln Center Education Repertory artists since 2002.
Daniel has composed works for chamber orchestra, the Mivos String Quartet and the feature film, The Legend of Johnson Roebling.