Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Laura "Piece" Kelley-Jahn


Laura "Piece" Kelley-Jahn performs with her band at the Nectar Lounge on March 22.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Laura "Piece" Kelley-Jahn has a presence about her that radiates
"artist" — even before you spot her fierce knee-high boots and sky-high

"She has the ability to wake up the room and captivate the
audience," described Shomari Jones, senior director of the Black
Achievers Program at the Meredith Mathews East Madison YMCA. "Piece has
the ability to wrap them with the words coming out of her mouth."

The accomplished spoken-word artist is a staple in the Seattle arts
scene, teaching community workshops, performing at schools and clubs
and winning plenty of contests — such as the improv poetry contest
Seattle Grand Slam, of which she was named champion in 2004 and 2005.

"I use music as a way to help heal," said Kelley-Jahn, who will be
singing with her neo-jazz/hip-hop band, Queenz Ransom, at the Nectar
Lounge Sunday. "It constantly defines your purpose."

Through her decadelong career, Kelley-Jahn has shared the stage with
artists like Gil Scott-Heron, the Last Poets, Saul Williams, Gwendolyn
Brooks, Angela Davis and Bobby Seale. She was also a featured artist on
HBO's "Def Poetry Jam" in 2005.

But she was performing long before that. At a young age, Kelley-Jahn
was rapping with friends in the Central District, while breakdancers
spun on cardboard. Hip-hop was her rite of passage.

Musician Bob Lovelace remembers meeting her at 14, and how he
underestimated her — until she earned herself a spot in his group with
her sweet rhymes. Now 38, he's joined her band, playing bass.

Kelley-Jahn boasts she can still best anyone at freestyling. She wows her workshop students all the time.

"She was inspiring," said former student Trina Felicitas, a
sophomore at Franklin High School who commented after watching a recent
Kelley-Jahn show. "She said that if you believe it, then be it. ... The
pen is her weapon."

Music is also in her blood. Kelley-Jahn's grandmother is none other
than Ruby Bishop, a mainstay in the Seattle jazz scene. The 89-year-old
Bishop plays every Monday at Martins Off Madison, a Capitol Hill piano

"She has influenced me in music, artistry and spirit," said Kelley-Jahn, who is currently producing her grandmother's album.

At just 31, Kelley-Jahn has a worldliness about her, of a weathered
and wise soul. Multiracial (her mother is black and Native American,
her father is Croatian — they met in Chinatown), Kelley-Jahn, like her
funky music, is hardly categorizable. Her last album, "Street Smartz,"
was is an introspective one-woman play, produced in her basement. And
lately to keep her creativity up, she keeps her Blackberry on hand,
texting flows of phrases in stream of consciousness style to herself
throughout the day.

The pieces are metaphorical and spiritual, drawing from her own
experiences. Kelley-Jahn — who became a mother at 17, and was in and
out of foster care and on the streets from age 13 to 17 — has a message
of empowerment. For example, she asks, what kind of lesson does it
teach kids to idolize 50 Cent after he's been shot so many times? She
breaks these raps down in her workshops, critically analyzing the
negative gangster themes and the glamorization it creates.

Her music embodies that truth. An education set to sound.

"That's my job," said Kelley-Jahn.Permalink: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/thearts/2008883750_zart19kelley.html?cmpid=2628

For more on Piece please visit www.piece.be

and look for her album "Street Smartz" on iTunes and Amazon.com

Enjoy some videos...

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