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Kendra Shank

A Spirit Free: Abbey Lincoln Songbook

(Challenge; US: 13 Feb 2007; UK: Available as import)

Kendra Shank doesn’t sing Abbey Lincoln’s songs as much as Shank inhabits them. The younger vocalist understands the angularity of Lincoln’s material from the inside. These tunes convey the deep emotions and spiritual nuances of a woman who has a strong heart and a keen mind. She feels what is going on, but she also reflectively studies her thoughts and feelings. Shank offers her transcendental vision of a life well-lived through Lincoln on terrific tracks like “Incantation/Throw it Away”, which suggests that the only things in life worth treasuring are the ones a person freely tosses out—like unconditional love. Shank doesn’t sing in the forefront as much as she weaves her voice into jazz mix that includes primo pianist Frank Kimbrough, the fastidious drumming of Tony Merono, and Billy Drewes’ sensitive soprano and tenor sax playing. The band takes Lincoln’s compositions on a road test, and Shank shows that other interpreters can make the songs motor on happily.

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Steven Horowitz has a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Iowa, where he continues to teach a three-credit online course on "Rock and Roll in America". He has written for many different popular and academic publications including American Music, Paste and the Icon. Horowitz is a firm believer in Paul Goodman's neofunctional perspective on culture and that Sam Cooke was right, a change is gonna come.


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