Born: April 23, 1958 Primary Instrument: Vocal
Kendra Shank's crystal-pure tone, powerful musicianship and elastic phrasing have won her rave critical notices and fans worldwide. Hailed by critics as one of the most innovative of present-day jazz vocalists (Drew Wheeler, CDNow) and one of the top jazz singers around today (Scott Yanow, L.A. Jazz Scene), she has headlined on the club and festival circuits internationally, captivating audiences with her genuine warmth, emotional depth and musical prowess.
Originally a folk/pop singer/guitarist in Seattle, Kendra Shank comes to performance naturally. Born in California to a playwright father and actress mother, Kendra was acting in plays at age 5, picked up the guitar at 13 and at 19 began her professional music career. Jazz, however, came later. During a residency in Paris, the influence of jazz artists grew, especially Billie Holiday.
Building on studies with jazz vocalist Jay Clayton in Seattle, Shank's jazz career blossomed quickly and in 1991 she was hired by Bob Dorough as vocalist/guitarist/percussionist for his west coast tour. She soon caught the attention of jazz legend Shirley Horn who co-produced Kendra's critically-acclaimed debut compact disc, Afterglow (Mapleshade, 1994), featuring pianist Larry Willis and saxophonist Gary Bartz, and invited Kendra to perform as her guest at the Village Vanguard in New York City. Ms. Shank relocated to New York in 1997 and went on to record two albums for Jazz Focus Records, Wish (1998) and Reflections (2000), both of which climbed the Gavin Jazz radio charts and garnered critical acclaim, as well as admiration from fellow artists like Abbey Lincoln who says, Kendra Shank is an original. A singer with a sound. Putting her own spin on a repertoire that embraces jazz originals, standards, and French tunes, Kendra Shank transcends musical genres and is indeed an original.
In addition to her recordings as a leader, Kendra Shank has been a sought-after musical guest, contributing her guitar work to Abbey Lincoln's CD Over The Years (Verve) and her vocalese lines to Peter Leitch's Blues On the Corner (Reservoir). She has been featured on the prestigious National Public Radio shows JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater and Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland and was recognized among Talent Deserving Wider Recognition by the Down Beat International Critics Poll in 1999. Her CD Wish was named a Top Ten Album of 1999 in Jazziz and her Reflections CD made the Top Ten List of several publications, including Newsday and The Boston Globe. This vocalist makes lyrics believable, invents like an instrumentalist, and has an ear second to none for little-known and unknown tunes, says the Globe's Bob Blumenthal.