As a long time listener to recordings by Kendra Shank, this reader has always been intrigued by the uniqueness of her approach to music making. In addition to her beautifully flexible voice, Kendra’s interpretation of standards, her arranging and her use of non traditional approaches to scat singing, make her a unique vocal jazz artist. On her newest CD Mosaic, Shank again delivers new and different sounds.
The recording opens with a rather straightforward rendition of Carol King’s "So Far Away." Along with Shank’s clear delivery of King’s lyric, Billy Drewes’ clarinet soloing alone and in counterpoint to Shank’s vocal adds much to this pop hit. Shank’s group stretches out most effectively on the CD’s second cut, "Life’s Mosaic." The song is based on Cedar Walton’s tune "Mosaic" with lyrics by John and Paula Hackett. Saxophonist Billy Drewes and guitarist Ben Monder stretch their improvisatory skills, while Shank employs non-traditional scat vocalizations all the while the combo stretches the tune in and out of time.
Examples of Shank’s unique approaches to standard songs begin with her rendition of Irving Berlin’s "Blue Skies." Prior to performing Berlin’s original tune, Shank adds as a prelude her own trope of original verse "Reflections in Blue." Shank also combines songs that complement each other well such as her fusion of Todd and Kenney’s "Laughing at Life" with Chaplin’s "Smile." To the standard "Beautiful Love," Shank adds a prelude and postlude to the song with verses by the 13th century Persian mystic and poet, Rumi. The instrumental accompaniment and Shank’s vocalization exemplify a non Western sound in support of Rumi’s poetry and enhances the overall performance and interpretation of the standard "Beautiful Love."
Along with all the ingenuity and creative approaches on Mosaic, Shank doesn’t let us forget that she can deliver a swinging straight ahead performance with her rendition of the Cole Porter standard "All of You." The skills of her back up combo are clearly evident on this cut with Frank Kimbrough’s fine solo effort and the swinging bass and drums of Dean Johnson and Tony Moreno. Pianist Kimbrough also contributes the original "For Duke." For fans of Kendra Shank, her new CD Mosaic will clearly deliver the talent and uniqueness we have come to expect. For listeners seeking new approaches to standards along with creative music making, Mosaic will also serve as delightful listening.