Born: August 26 Primary Instrument: Vocal
Kenia, who single-handedly defined the essence of heavenly, pop accented Brazilian jazz in the 1980s and '90s, returns with an album that surpasses all expectations. With the release of Simply Kenia, the singer confidently reasserts her position as one of the reigning queens of Brazilian music. Simply Kenia is a captivating blend of venerable choro works, samba and bossa nova-accented tracks that represent the best of the contemporary MPB (Musica Popular Brasileira) tradition, and handpicked favorites from the American ballad songbook. There's little doubt that it all adds up to the most well-rounded and stylistically authentic album of Kenia's career. Simply Kenia features 15 tracks that are custom tailored for Kenia's trademark seductive style, amber-toned voice and impeccable phrasing. Reflecting her affection for Brazil's best tunesmiths, the singer includes works by such renowned composers as Jair De Oliveira, Gilson Peranzzetta and Joao Bosco. She transforms Djavan's Aviao into Being Cool, with English lyrics by Lorraine Feather. Her take on two timeless North American standards, Willie Nelson's Crazy and Matt Dennis' immortal Angel Eyes, defines romantic balladry at its most sensuous. As a special bonus, Crazy is rendered in English, Portuguese and Spanish versions. The album is also noteworthy as Kenia's first foray as a vocalist into the world of choro, an elemental, pre-samba Brazilian style that was the rage in Rio in the early 20th Century and has recently undergone a long overdue renaissance. It didn't take long after she arrived in the U.S. in 1980 that Kenia made an impact on the Brazilian jazz scene. In 1984, she was featured on Red on Red, the U.S. debut by a fellow Carioca, trumpet star Claudio Roditi. Produced by recording industry legend Creed Taylor, the album established Kenia as the new Brazilian voice in the U.S. market and opened the door for festival bookings and guest appearances with a wide range of artists, including James Taylor, Justo Almario and Jonathan Butler. She also launched her solo recording career, producing four popular and critically acclaimed albums for the MCA and Denon labels between 1987 and 1991. The albums were noted for their winning mixture of tracks by such diverse North American composers as Stevie Wonder (Creepin') and Harold Arlen (Somewhere Over The Rainbow) as well as the latest creations by Brazil's best contemporary songwriters, including Djavan (Flor De Lis), Toninho Horta (Distant Horizon). Their catchy arrangements, slick production values and heartfelt performances made the releases a perfect match for the emerging Adult Contemporary Jazz (Smooth Jazz) format on FM radio. Kenia not only become one of the new broadcasting genre's biggest stars; she also established herself as one of the most popular and successful U.S. based Brazilian musicians since the heyday of Sergio Mendes and Brazil '66. Other artistic triumphs were to quickly follow. In 1992, she lent her composing skills and voice to the soundtrack of The Devil's Toothpick, a music film produced by Creed Taylor that featured guitarist Lubambo, saxophonist Donald Harrison, and Brazil's current Minister of Culture, singer Gilberto Gil. In 1997, Kenia launched her own label, Mooka Records, with a particularly ambitious effort; Project Ivan Lins, a tribute to the one of Brazil's most prolific and popular contemporary songwriters, featuring Lins himself as a special guest. It's been a decade since Kenia's name graced the cover of a new CD release — far too long, her most ardent fans would quickly say. But she makes up for lost time on Simply Kenia. Her magic touch is not only still alive, it's more potent than ever. Simply put, Simply is Kenia, through and through. As written by Mark Holston Jazziz Magazine
Kenia’s long time commitment to promoting Brazilian music and culture includes hands on clinics and workshops in phrasing and Brazilian rhythms, including an introduction to Brazilian rhythms for children.