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Kendra Shank: Reflections

Once upon a time, to be a jazz singer was to be supthin’ special. Nowadays, it’s all about striking generic poses, flossing diva attitudes and stylistic body snatching. There’s so many glorified R&B/pop gurls out here frontin’ just ’cause some marketing geeks/media hacks/Billboard charts big ’em up, that the art is devalued. Kendra Shank ain’t going out like that.

Ex-folk singer-guitarist, a decade of learning/working her craft in two-bit rooms from Seattle to Paris, debut album co-produced by Shirley Horn, ’99 Down Beat Int’l Critics Poll TDWR winner, mentored by Abbey Lincoln-sistah’s got papers, y’know? That said, Shank’s previous solo albums (Afterglow, Wish) never quite captured the quiet fire frisson, the ethereal gestalt of her live performances.

The new Reflections is all that and a bag o’ chips. Juiced by empathetic players (Frank Kimbrough, piano; Dean Johnson, bass; Tony Moreno, drums, percussion) who mirror-shadow-shade her every phrase and nuance, Kendra’s muse attains wild gravity. “Let It Be” works up a dark prayer, “Throw It Away” becomes a scat-mellowed jive samba, “Papillon des Nuits (a/k/a Cuban Waltz)” swings-gay-like-Ella-except-in-French. Even when she laces a Joni Mitchellesque vocal/guitar spin on Ralph Towner’s “The Silence of a Candle,” Kendra Shank embodies all that a true jazz singer once was and is now.

Originally Published