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Album Review

Kendra Shank opens Mosaic with a gem that many post-bop vocalists wouldn't consider including in their repertoire: Carole King's early-'70s ballad "So Far Away," which Shank performs in a straightforward fashion. Shank's heartfelt performance packs a strong punch emotionally, although it doesn't have quite the improvisatory appeal that her performances are usually known for having. But after that opener, Shank's improvisatory skills assert themselves in a major way — and she is delightfully uninhibited on impressionistic versions of songs ranging from Bill Evans' "Time Remembered" and Cedar Walton's "Life's Mosaic" to Irving Berlin's Tin Pan Alley standard "Blue Skies" (which is part of a medley that also includes Shank's own "Reflections in Blue"). And true to form, Shank reminds listeners that jazz vocalists can be cerebral without being cold, distant, or aloof. Shank has long had an impressive ability to be intellectual and warm at the same time — and that holds true on Mosaic whether she is turning her attention to Cole Porter's "All of You" or Johnny Mandel's "The Shining Sea." Not only do beauty and intellect coexist on this 2008 recording — they complement one another and are equally important parts of Shank's artistic makeup. For all its post-bop abstraction, Mosaic is never lacking when it comes to emotion or vulnerability. Mosaic isn't quite as essential as A Spirit Free: Abbey Lincoln Songbook, the superb tribute to jazz vocal icon Abbey Lincoln that Shank recorded in 2005. But it is still an excellent addition to her rewarding catalog.

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Mosaic, Kendra Shank Quartet
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