Jan 6, 2017
Serendipity - the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. No word can better describe the series of events that brought singer Kendra Shank and pianist Geoffrey Keezer together a few years back.
A cancelled flight prevented Ms. Shank's regular pianist, Frank Kimbrough, from making a West Coast gig. Learning Keezer was in town, and with just 30 minutes to spare before hitting the stage, the pair showed instant chemistry, and wowed the audience.
Fast forward to two January’s ago, and again Kendra needs a pianist, this time on the East Coast, and Keezer is in town playing a run of shows with Chris Botti. They played a duo performance in a friend's apartment, which fortunately was recorded and now is available as Half Moon (Ride Symbol recordings).
Kendra Shank has been a “musician’s singer” for year. Rather than just wrap herself around a classic tune, she uses her musical training on guitar, piano and percussion to drive her vocal interpretations. Her mentors include Bob Dorough, Shirley Horn, and especially, Abbey Lincoln. Since 2000 she has lead a working quartet of first call musicians, including pianist Kimbrough, bassist Dean Johnson, and drummer Tony Moreno. Their three recordings – sometimes supplemented by guitarist Ben Monder and reedman Billy Drewes - and have mixed Kendra originals and classic tunes, bridging the Great American Songbook with the Singer-Songwriter oeuvre of the Sixties and Seventies (Ms. Shank herself began as a folk singer-guitarist in Seattle).
Half Moon gives listeners a chance to experience Kendra in an intimate setting, highlighting not only her vocal prowess, but her musicality, as she improvises with Keezer on standards like “Alone Together” and newer tunes like Jeremy Siskind’s “Kneel”. Her wordless vocals on Cedar Walton’s “Life’s Mosaic” shows she can match anyone on the scene today in her ability to wring nuance and emotion from a jazz tune.
Podcast 557 iis my conversation with Kendra Shank, as we discuss her background, her approach to tunes, and why she and Geoffrey Keezer have developed such great rapport. Musical selections from Half Moon include the title track, “Healing Song”, “Kneel” and “When Love Was You and Me”, the last of which comes from a chart written by Abbey Lincoln. The medley “Reflections in Blue/Blue Skies” comes from her 2008 album Mosaic, with her quartet, Drewes and Monder.
Kendra Shank and Geoffrey Keezer will perform two sets at Mezzrow in New York City on Monday January 9, 2017, at 8:00 and 9:30.