From Midwestern Original
to International Sensation
International performer and educator Keri Chryst currently lives and works in Paris, France — by way of Chicago, Illinois where she studied jazz at Northwestern University (master’s degree, 1998).
Her spunky, authentic “in the pocket” swing & soulful groove, together with an instrumental approach to singing and improvisation, have charmed audiences around the globe and fast earned her a reputation as a musician’s singer.
Keri Chryst has performed at many of Paris’s timeless venues – the New Morning, Sunset/Sunside, Caveau de la Huchette, Petit Journal Montparnasse, the Meridien’s Jazz Club Etoile — and can also be heard time and again in more intimate Parisian settings like Café Universel or Chez Papa.
An accomplished bandleader, composer, and arranger Keri heads up her own interchangeable jazz combos — duos, trios, quintets, dectets, full big bands — as well as rocking out the old-school soul when the occasion calls for it.
Her début album "The French Connection – Vol 1 : a transatlantic love-hate musical romance" (2013), brings together her passions for Jazz music and French culture into one big package — highlighting the musical and cultural pas de deux that has been going on between American Jazz, and French popular song since the early 20th century.
Her passion and skills also caught the eye of her compatriots at the United States Embassy in 2012; they have since sent her on dozens of missions as cultural ambassador around the farthest reaches of Europe and the African Continent to follow in the footsteps of the original Jazz Ambassadors —Armstrong, Ellington, Brubeck, etc. — sharing America's original art form with new audiences around the globe.
In 2013, Keri was invited to join the long-standing Parisian Vocal Trio par excellence: Sweet System. An adventure culminating in an original stage show "Jazz Club et Talons Aiguilles" playing at theatres and festivals across Europe (Le Ranelagh 2014, Avignon 2015, etc.), as well as a dream album project in 3-part harmony in homage to The First Lady of Jazz : "Sweet Ella" (Frémaux & Assoc. 2017), just in time to celebrate the centenary of Ella Fitzgerald's birth.
Early 2018 brought a fresh desire to pursue collaborations with horn sections, big and small. In April 2019 a feature performance alongside members of The Original Blues Brothers Band (namely Tom "Bones" Malone & "Blue" Lou Marini) helped to crystalize ideas and collaborations. Keri is now actively developing projects with a number of big bands and nonets in Europe and the USA.
Keri's accomplishments as an educator include pioneering the Jazz Vocal Program at the American School of Modern Music in Paris (former Berklee affiliate, now called IMEP), and authoring a complete curriculum of auxiliary workshops and courses for her Jazz Vocal Academy International (JVA). The JVA allows students to develop into fully rounded musicians, as well as healthy and happy singers. Keri is also a proud member of the Nebraska Arts Council Roster of Teaching Artists (since 2014), and is frequently solicited to do workshops and clinics around the state, thanks to the NAC's support.
This season, Keri has been touring Europe, Africa and the USA with her "The French Connection" and "Roots 66" concert programs and also with Sweet System for the Ella Fitzgerald tribute "Sweet Ella". A range of workshops and educational programs are also available in conjunction with each concert’s theme.
A consummate musician in any situation, we invite you to keep an ear out for news of Ms. Chryst as she continues to spread her classic swing style around Paris and the International music scene.
More about Keri
Keri Elena Chryst was born in the heart of the Midwest, and raised among the expats in the deserts of the Middle East.
Singing has always been a part of her life: she got her start in school choirs, then honed her skills in semi-professional groups such as the Cleveland Orchestra Children's Chorus and the children's theatre troupe "Kids On Broadway".
Whether turning pages for her grandmother from the church organ bench or fronting her grandfather's big band in her jazz début at age 17 — for Keri music has always been a family affair .
Starting with piano lessons from grandma at age 6, Keri proceeded to rack up her musical achievements with lead roles in her school's musical comedies as well as choir and band where she held the prized 1st chair as flautist (though secretly preferring to lug a sousaphone during marching season!).
It came as no surprise when Keri chose to enter Northwestern University School of Music in 1992 to study Classical Voice and Musical Theatre. It was essential to her personal philosophy that she learn proper technique so as not to damage her primary instrument. But she was soon seduced by the challenges involved in singing jazz harmony; and with a refusal to succumb to the notion there was something she could not do, Keri completely changed direction.
In 1997 she became the first (and perhaps only?) vocalist in the school's history to graduate with a Bachelor of Music in Jazz studies — encouraged by some incredible opportunities to study and perform with such jazz greats as Max Roach , Sheila Jordan, Bobby McFerrin, Darmon Meader, Don Shelton, and Danilo Perez. Just one year later, her new-found passion carried her straight into a Masters in Jazz Pedagogy , also from Northwestern.
Diplomas in hand — including one for good luck in French Studies (NU '97) — she lighted out at the dawn of the new century to pursue her other life-long dream... Living in Paris!
Overcoming enormous challenges as a "stranger in a strange land", she eventually landed a job pioneering a fresh curriculum for then Berklee Affiliate The American School of Modern Music (now IMEP) where she honed her skills as an educator and devised the workshop series that would come to form the core of the Jazz Vocal Academy International.
From there she was able to plant the seeds which led to the career as a performer and teaching artist.
Whether leading a jazz quintet, or fronting a big band, Keri's "lighter than caramel" voice and her authentic "in the pocket" swing continue to charm audiences from Chicago to Paris to Togo and back again!