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Kendra Shank & Geoffrey Keezer: Half Moon: Live in New York

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Eight years ago, Kendra Shank was scheduled for a hometown concert at San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse. A cancelled flight left her regular pianist, Frank Kimbrough, stranded on the East Coast. Desperate for a substitute, Shank learned that Geoffrey Keezer lived nearby, and he stepped in with less than an hour to prepare. The two established an immediate bond, leading to several West Coast tours, but hadn’t recorded together until this spontaneous offering. Early last year, when Keezer was in New York for an engagement with Chris Botti, the pianist and Shank reconnected for an impromptu date, captured in the living room of a friend’s Manhattan apartment.

Half Moon can, in a sense, be considered the bookend to Shank’s previous duo project, 2014’s New York Conversations, with guitarist John Stowell: a similarly extemporaneous session evincing a deep, stimulating rapport honed over many years. Shank and Keezer open with a floating, diaphanous “Alone Together,” then take a 180-degree turn, nodding to her friend and mentor Abbey Lincoln with a densely shadowed “The Music Is the Magic,” punctuated by hypnotic, African-hued chants. Lincoln is again saluted with a mellow “When Love Was You and Me.” Their cashmere-rendered “You Are There” is as tranquilly ruminative. Most tantalizing, though, are the three most unfamiliar selections: the mesmeric, entirely improvised title track; their placid, uplifting “Healing Song”; and “Kneel,” a gently powerful treatise on faith-driven perseverance that recently earned Jeremy Siskind an ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award.

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