Kendra Shank and John Stowell have been collaborating for years but only recently decided to record an album together. Music from their new album, New York Conversations has clearly been waiting for it's time in the sun. Full of unexpected moments and gorgeous blend, their live performance was an experience in itself.
The concert at Brooklyn's Roulette on Sunday, May 4 elevated an already lovely album to a new high of musicianship and performance. The addition of special guest, drummer Rogerio Boccato, elevated already beautiful music to an incredibly engaging experience. Not a moment passed where the trio wasn't engaging with their music, humor and joy. One may only hope that this is not Shank and Stowell's only collaboration, because there is clearly magic happening.
Ms. Shank is an incredibly versatile performer, showing off a sultry voice in pieces like “Blue Skyes” and “Songs and Lullabies” then switching off to electronic manipulations reminiscent of Milton Glaser in the title song “New York Conversations”. In both types of music, though, Shank's humor is evident. “Blue Skyes” featured a completely transformed interpretation of this beautiful standard. Stowell's guitar blended into the ensemble seamlessly yet maintained its own original character. Nothing was overdone. Like the perfect cup of coffee, the performance was warm, refreshing and comforting.
“New York Conversations” was originally written by John Stowell. Kendra Shank heard New York in the music and decided to put lyrics to it. Lyrics are not all though. Stowell's writing combined with Shank's electronic layering of her own vocal sounds and Boccato's perfectly timed percussion was pure magic. The result was a funny, frantic tribute to the city Kendra Shank has called home since 1997. Just watching her record and layer her vocals gave the feeling of the city's contained energy waiting to burst out.
The diversity of the music in that evening was incredible, including songs from The Great American Songbook to boundary-pushing moments of pure sound. From humorous improvisations to meditative moments and even a Rumi quote, Stowell, Shank and Bocatto entertained, inspired and pushed boundaries for a truly enjoyable show.