Sweet Rhythm

15 July 2004

NY Jazz Report's Joe Kruty (filling in for Thad Kawecki who is on a temporary hiatus) and Will Wolf stopped by Sweet Rhythm on Tuesday 22.June to catch vocalist Kendra Shank and her group as they performed the second set of their one night engagement.

Kendra Shank          Vocals, Guitar
Frank Kimbrough     Piano
Dean Johnson          Bass
Tony Moreno            Drums


Beautiful Love
Not To Worry
I'm Never Sure
The Whole Wide World is Round
The Silence of a Candle
All of You
Throw It Away
This is New

If you ever have the good fortune to see Kendra Shank perform with her group, you will not be seeing a star and her sidemen, as is too often the case. For although her name is on the marquee and she appears in front of the band, you will be seeing a true ensemble performance.

It's very apparent that this unit has been together for a long time---five years. Every tune was a musical collaboration. Inter-communication was at a high level, and whether soloing or working together, each player demonstrated a clear, expressive connection to his mates.

It was the conversation of four close friends. Their chat was effortless, natural and unscripted. It had all of the unexpected shifts of emotion and rhythm that happen when people share the same passion. No one had the need to dominate or force their ideas on the others.

Kendra Shank has a voice that can easily command center stage, yet she uses it thoughtfully. Even when it is at its most controlled it carries weight and meaning. She has no desire to show it off for its own sake. It took until the fifth tune for her to reveal how big, open and resonant her instrument can be.

And, although she has learned a lot from one of her main mentors, Abbey Lincoln (the eight tune set included three of her compositions), she has a vocal quality and style all her own. Her version of Lincoln's "THROW IT AWAY" is a shining example.

That was one of the highlights of the night. The introduction had a "world music" texture with Shank using her voice as a percussion instrument, and Kimbrough muting the piano strings with his hand. It had a playful attitude that was perfect for the tune's positive, reassuring message.

And, Johnson and Moreno added to the mix, providing not just accompaniment, but unique voices of their own. In fact, Moreno was very evident on every tune, more so than most drummers. continually adding interesting rhythmic flousishes. This guy is no ordinary time keeper.

There was nothing ordinary about the set either. Shank's recitation of a poem written by the Sufi mystic, Rumi was a poignant and unexpected introduction to "BEAUTIFUL LOVE."

And, their version of guitarist Ralph Towner's "THE SILENCE OF A CANDLE," a non-jazz tune, was one of the best numbers of the evening. Shank began her singing career as a folk/pop songstress. If she hadn't discovered jazz, she could have had equal success there.

Her voice was certainly pure and warm enough on that number and she accompanied herself beautifully on guitar.

Shank's choice of material is diverse and she handles it all with the same relaxed, confident presence. Her singing is honest and sincere. She obviously chooses songs that speak to her and her fellow musicians.

And that speak to the audience at the same time.


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