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Kendra Shank: Kendra Sings Abbey

Kendra Shank

She couldn’t have known it at the time, but Thanksgiving Day 1993 would ultimately provide vocalist and guitarist Kendra Shank plenty to give thanks for. Shank, eager to move beyond her folk and bluegrass roots, was then living in Seattle and studying jazz under the great Jay Clayton. Into town breezed Abbey Lincoln, scheduled for a weeklong gig at Jazz Alley. Since the club was closed for the holiday, Clayton asked Lincoln to join her for Thanksgiving dinner. Shank, too, was invited. “I walked in the door, and there was Abbey Lincoln!” recalls Shank. “She and I didn’t talk much at that first meeting. She was really Jay’s guest, so I just sat there and listened to the two masters talk to each other.”

One year and about 5,000 miles later, Shank fell under Lincoln’s spell. Living and working in Paris, she went to see Lincoln in concert and “her music really hit me. Suddenly I got it. Every word, every note had such intention and power. I felt like I’d been hit by white light. That was when her singing and her songwriting first connected with me. [Her album] A Turtle’s Dream was released the following year. That record had a huge influence on me, [and I] then ended up buying every album Abbey had recorded.”

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