Arts & Culture

4.16.14 Arts Jazz Jam
Photo Courtesy of Darnell Britton

Kelle Jolly, musician and entertainer, is the host of WUOT's New Friday night segment Jazz Jams. Listeners can tune in on Friday's at 8 p.m.

Local jazz aficionado takes over new radio segment

One of Knoxville's prominent jazz musicians has taken a new gig just in time for April's Jazz Appreciation Month.

Kelle Jolly, a musician and entertainer, is the host of WUOT's new Friday night segment: Jazz Jams.

The previous holder of the 8 p.m. slot was nationally-aired Marian McPartland's "Piano Jazz," but after McPartland passed away last July, NPR kept running reruns of the well-known host's shows. Todd Steed, jazz coordinator at WUOT, said the staff decided they wanted a segment that was more current as well as one that would bring in a local host.

"I had Kelle and her husband Will Boyd on 'Improvisations' as guests," Steed said. "Ten minutes into that interview, I knew Kelle would be a natural to host a show."

Jolly certainly has the history. While in high school, she started singing jazz because she didn't have a gospel or pop voice, and she ended up falling in love.

"Pop singers have popularity for a certain time period. But jazz singers sing until they die," Jolly said. "I felt like jazz fit my voice stylistically, and the topics of the songs, the poetry of the lyrics were attractive to me."

Jolly became well-practiced in jazz during high school, where her experience studying jazz led her band director to create a new senior recognition for her: the Billie Holiday Award. After studying at South Carolina State University and being inducted into their Jazz Hall of Fame, she and her fellow-musician husband moved to Knoxville in 2006.