Kendra Shank's crystal-pure tone, powerful musicianship and elastic phrasing have won her rave critical notices and fans internationally. Hailed by The New York Times as a "superbly skilled vocalist" and an artist of "effervescence, depth," and "integrity" (Nate Chinen), she headlines at top venues across the U.S. and abroad, captivating audiences with her genuine warmth and musicality. Shank combines jazz originals, standards, world music, French songs, folk/pop tunes, and open improvisation in an adventurous, genre-bending style that inspired Gary Giddins to call her "one of New York's most original performers." (Jazz Times)
Originally a folk/pop singer-guitarist based 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 music career playing in Parisian subways and sidewalk cafés. After several years on the west coast folk music circuit, a Billie Holiday recording inspired her to pursue jazz.
In 1989 Shank began studying with jazz vocalist Jay Clayton in Seattle, while keeping dual residency in Paris, France where she gigged in jazz clubs. Her 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 invited Kendra to perform as her guest at the Village Vanguard in New York and co-produced Shank's critically-acclaimed debut compact disc Afterglow (Mapleshade, 1994), featuring pianist Larry Willis and saxophonist Gary Bartz.
Ms. Shank relocated to New York in 1997 and recorded two albums for Jazz Focus Records: Wish (1998), whichTime magazine's Terry Teachout called "delectable" and advised "get in on the ground floor, this lady is going up," and Reflections (2000), which made the Boston Globe's Top Ten list: "This vocalist makes lyrics believable, invents like an instrumentalist, and has an ear second to none for little-known and unknown tunes," wrote theGlobe's Bob Blumenthal.
Reflections debuted The Kendra Shank Quartet, her current working band, featuring pianist Frank Kimbrough, bassist Dean Johnson, and drummer Tony Moreno. This ensemble, in which Shank focuses on improvisational group interplay, is also featured on her ground-breaking 2007 release, A Spirit Free: Abbey Lincoln Songbook(Challenge Records), which received numerous Best of the Year citations and charted on jazz radio. Journalist Lawrence Brazier marveled that the group displays "...a practically telepathic integration...these four people appear to have emerged from the same womb" (Jazz Now). The quartet's decade-long collaboration reaches new depths of creative expression on their 2009 release Mosaic (Challenge Records), where they are joined by multi-reedist Billy Drewes and guitarist Ben Monder. This album unifies Shank's rich and varied musical journey from folk singer-guitarist to jazz improviser to boundary-less performing artist.
In addition to her recordings as a leader, Shank was guest guitarist on Abbey Lincoln's CD Over The Years(Verve), sang vocalise lines on Peter Leitch's Blues On the Corner CD (Reservoir), and has been a vocal guest with Jay Clayton, Bud Shank, Rhiannon, and Randy Halberstadt. Hailed by Downbeat magazine as a top female vocalist (1999, 2006, 2007), she has been featured on National Public Radio's JazzSet and Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland, and has taught clinics at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, The New School (New York City), Brooklyn/Queens Conservatory of Music (New York City), and the Jazz in Marciac Festival (France). Appearances include Blue Note, Birdland, Iridium, Jazz Standard, JVC Jazz Festival, Blues Alley, Scullers, Regatta Bar, Jazz Bakery, Jazz Alley, The Green Mill, The Dakota, Jazz in Marciac Festival, Jazz à Vienne Festival, Edmonton Jazz Festival, Calgary Jazz Festival, and countless others.