Chicago musician Lili K (Kryzanek) is jazz with a nose ring — literally.
Blending jazz with hip-hop and R&B to form a wholly eclectic sound, the 21-year-old Milwaukee, Wis., native, who sports a stud in one nostril, has begun to carve a niche with her new take on the musical style while keeping jazz alive.
“I think my sound is very distinct, and I’ve gotten good at blending genres,” said Lili. “It’s awesome to be able to go from a jazz jam session to a Treated Crew party across town and be welcome at both.”
The unique musical assortment will be on display on March 1 at the Hard Rock.
Growing up in Milwaukee, jazz was always Kryzanek’s first love. After high school she moved to Chicago to attend Columbia College and immerse herself in the city long-known for its culture of the genre.
“The reason I got a fake ID when I was 18 [was] so I could go to jam sessions at the Velvet Lounge,” said Lili. “I kind of came here at a weird time because a lot of jazz clubs were closing and the jazz scene wasn’t as big, which is disappointing because I love jazz.”
Playing an open mike two years ago, a chance encounter steered Lili in a different direction in both her life and her music. Local musician and producer Peter CottonTale (Wilkins) approached her after her set and the two immediately clicked.
“Peter is an amazing musician and one of my best friends. I definitely wouldn’t be doing any of this without him,” said Lili. “He’s the first one that introduced me to the hip-hop scene and helped me use that influence in my music.”
As a producers, CottonTale helped to shape the cocktail of soul, jazz and hip-hop into a cohesive style that is easily identifiable, and wholly Lili. The two collaborated on the 2012 release “Metal Petals,” a free album that features production from both CottonTale and local product Thelonious Martin.
“We’re both very raw musicians, so it was very easy to bounce ideas off of each other in terms of musicianship,” said CottonTale. “Our idea was to take two things and make them into something unique.”
Taking the path less-traveled can get tricky, and Lili admits to sometimes not knowing what her “lane” is in the greater framework of the Chicago music scene.
“I’m not taking jazz and soul and doing it how it has been done; I’m taking it and making it a little more modern,” she said. “I’m doing the same type of melodies one would do over a jazz standard, I just have hip-hop drums bumping behind me.”
As the sound continues to develop, she has found ways to intertwine her sinewy voice with a variety of instrumentation, although without anyone similar in town to look to, she admits to sometimes feeling like a “jazzy loner.”
For now, Lili K is gearing up for the show at the Hard Rock, preparing more music videos for the rest of the tracks off “Metal Petals,” and easing intoher new-found fame.
“People knowing who I am and wanting to take pictures and stuff is kind of new and weird right now,” said Lili. “But it’s all a part of it. I feel lucky to make music that not only blends genres but in turn blends audiences.”
Jake Krzeczowski is a local free-lance writer.