New Faces: Chelsea Palermo

For Rumson resident Chelsea Palermo, jazz is all about love. She became smitten with jazz as a young girl. “I could sing just about before I could talk,” says 22-year-old Palermo. “I remember sitting in my grandmother’s Mustang at about five years old, when a Louie Armstrong song came on and I started scatting along with the record. My family was really surprised.”

Eight years later while vacationing on Block Island, Palermo had her first experience performing in front of an audience. “I was having a portrait done at an outdoor fair, and there was a band playing. I was humming along with them and the artist doing my portrait challenged me to go on stage and sing.” Palermo walked up to the stage, joined the band, and sang Bing Crosby’s “Swinging on a Star.” “Afterwards, I even signed autographs. It was great.”

Since then, Palermo’s fascination with greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, and Charlie Parker has grown. She has listened closely and fashioned her own style following in their tradition. “I only listen to the best. If you learn from the best you have the potential to be the best,” she says.

At 13, Palermo began taking piano lessons and also began dabbling in writing lyrics. When she was ready for high school, Palermo auditioned for and won a spot at Red Bank Regional Performing Arts School. She also was accepted into the New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s “Jazz for Teens” initiative, which grooms promising young musicians through weekend classes and performances. The students work with professional jazz artists to explore the history, techniques, and styles of jazz.

“Growing up I didn’t just stay at the beach,” Palermo says. “If you don’t use [your talent] you lose it.”
With the ultimate goal of winning, at least “a Grammy or two,” Palermo is keeping busy. She released her first album, “All About Love,” on her own label in November 2007. Available at select retailers in New Jersey and through her website, the album is filled with traditional renditions of jazz and cabaret standards, plus some surprises, like a Latin-infused take on “My Funny Valentine.” In February, Palermo opened for Latin jazz giant Gato Barbieri (at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood) and smooth jazz keyboardist Bob Baldwin (at the Two River Theater in Red Bank).

Palermo will be performing July 25 at the Pier Village Concert in Long Branch and August 2 at the Tiki Bar in the Ocean Place Resort & Spa. For more information, visit chelseapalermo.com.

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