Kelly Craig is the CEO and Musical Director for the Shine Group. He is a multi-instrumentalist who is proficient on trumpet, electric bass, drums, and keyboard. Kelly teaches a wide range of music that include; jazz, rock, salsa, classical and everything in between. His experience ranges from a chair in the Regina Symphony to performances with the Temptations and Four Tops. Kelly has performed on many stages including the National Arts Centre, Parliament Hill and Jazz and Blues festivals across Canada and abroad.
Born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan, he was fortunate to have access to excellent trumpet instructors including; Karen Donnelly, now Principal Trumpet in the NAC Orchestra, and Ed Lewis, who holds a Masters from Eastman and a Ph.D. from Juilliard. Since the age of 7 he was a member of a police sponsored band organization, and his high school had a strong music program. Throughout his teens he attended The Saskatchewan Summer School of the Arts. In addition to these formal avenues of education, he was exposed to local music via weekend jam sessions. Gut bucket guitar blues, soul and r&b music were explored on these stages. Attending these jam sessions led him to seek out and play instruments common to these styles. He picked up electric bass, blues harmonica (short lived), started to sing, as well as play trumpet at these sessions. This was complemented by his love for Count Basie and James Brown records. These early experiences have left an indelible mark on his musical choices in the jazz milieu.
While Kelly was attending Floyd Standifer’s jazz history course at the Saskatchewan Summer School of the Arts he was impressed by Floyd’s reminiscences about what the jazz world was like before the emergence of formal jazz education. Floyd spoke about back room discussions, where new ideas were constantly the main topic of conversation. In an effort to carry on this tradition, Kelly took the road less travelled and left the University of Regina in 1991. He focused on building a strong foundation in blues and r&b bands such as Otis Clay, Long John Baldry and many bands in Regina and Saskatoon. It eventually became necessary for him to relocate in order to pursue musical avenues more suited to his maturing tastes. His decision to move to Ottawa was not hastily considered. He saw the potential to work in three major Canadian centres while still within driving distance of New York, the eastern seaboard, Detroit and Chicago, all hotbeds of jazz. Once in Ottawa he found his skills in great demand. Seeing that he played trumpet, bass and, additionally, keyboards, he was snatched up by the Caribbean community to play reggae, soca, zouk, kompa, salsa, afro/cuban jazz and any variations thereof. This group of musicians also played r&b and soul which he was intimately familiar with.
In 2004, Kelly pursued an opportunity to secure an appearance with a group that is larger than life. He caught wind that the world-famous Motown studio band The Funk Brothers needed a horn section for The Ottawa Bluesfest. He pursued The Funk Brothers trumpet chair vigorously, and would have considered himself lucky to play just once with the band. Fortunately, they were in need of a permanent trumpet player. Kelly’s association still exists to date; a case of pursuing the right gig at the right time. He held the trumpet chair on most dates with very few exceptions from 2004-2008, playing three times a week with the band nearly every week. Once the fever of the award winning documentary,”Standing in the Shadows of Motown” subsided, promoters paid less and flying a horn section from city to city became financially impractical to the survival of the group. Kelly prepared horn charts for use by pick-up horn sections when it was necessary to use local musicians. He still holds the chair when the band plays in the Northeastern quadrant of North America, or when they play overseas. He remains their first call trumpet player. This association with the Funk Brothers has allowed Kelly to share the stage with:
Sam Moore, Wilson Pickett, Joan Osborne, The Four Tops, The Temptations (Both the Dennis Edwards and Otis Williams incarnations), Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan,Hayden, The Contours, Mary Wells, Sass Jordan, Marc Jordan, Jully Black, Francis Nero, Brenda Holloway,The Marvelettes, Gladys Horton, Barrett Strong, and many singers local to the city of performance. Kelly’s jazz experiences have also been enriched by this association.
Much of Kelly’s improvisational inspiration comes from performing with Brian Browne in a duo setting. Brian has encouraged him to draw upon his early influences for a blues-coloured sense of melody and tonality. Brian’s harmonic sophistication feeds the ears in a pure, unfettered manner. Brian reharmonizes standards on stage with no preconceived plan, making the statement of strong melodic ideas paramount in Kelly’s improvised sections. Kelly feels lucky to play with such fine musicians. Each day he is excited to pull the trumpet from its case and play, and anxiously awaits what adventure his trumpet will lead him to.