New Face of Jazz

DENVER’S 20-SOMETHING KEDDJRA upends the local jazz scene

By Kastle Waserman

Photo By Jonathan Vu

When Keddjrawalks into a jazz bar and takes the stage with her long, brown, curly hair; bell-bottom pants; and midriff tops, most attendees are taken aback. What could this 20-something woman know about jazz? Once she opens her mouth, her sultry smooth voice fills the room and her pointed lyrics reveal her day-in-the-life observational mind. It’s clear she’s one jazzer who knows what she’s doing. 

“They don’t expect it,” she says. “But I think people enjoy what I do because they recognize it, and I’m able to put my own twist and style into it.”

While most of her peers listen to hip-hop or alternative rock, Keddjra is at home recording songs on her phone using the GarageBand app.  

Music wasn’t always on Keddjra’s mind. She started down another career path, studying math and economics at the University of Colorado Denver until the pandemic stranded her at home. “I decided to take some time off school, and I thought about things. I realized life is short. Do I want to do the safe thing, or do I want to spend my precious time doing something that really makes me happy? I had something I wanted to say, and I decided I was going to do it no matter what it took.”

Photos By Annabelle Pippin

She credits Nina Simone as her most significant influence. “I love how raw and real she was.” And she looks at Bob Dylan as inspiration in her songwriting.

Keddjra’s music is slow and sultry, with an almost spoken word–style, velvety vocals. She describes her sound as bedroom pop, chill-out music. But her lyrics, filled with biting commentary, get the real attention. When asked why she titled her debut album “How My Friends Must Worry,” she replied: “Every time I would play them a song, they be like, ‘That’s cool, but are you OK?’” She laughs, admitting her music expresses the darker, more introverted part of her life and not the goofy, fun-loving person most people know her as. “When I’m writing, I try to be as raw and real as I can be. I’m not scared to shy away from things or expose parts of myself people might not want to see.”

Her work caught the attention of Colorado Public Radio, who started playing her music and featured her in their Local 303 picks after she sent them some of her music and a bio. “I was really stoked because most of the music on my album I just recorded on my phone. It was very much a passion project and very personal to me.”

Album Cover, How My Friends Must Worry

As she readies for a summer tour of the Midwest and East Coast, Keddjra is figuring out how to translate the music mixed on a phone app into a live show, and she’s loving every part of the process. “I love writing, creating, playing with other musicians and bringing out a side of me I don’t often get to show people. I’m just completely going for it.”

Photo By Jonathan Vu