Kendra Shank was born on April 23, 1958 in Woodland, California and 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 and pop 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 Bob Dorough hired her 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 her critically acclaimed debut release Afterglow in 1994 featuring pianist Larry Willis and saxophonist Gary Bartz.
Kendra relocated to New York in 1997 and recorded Wish and Reflections for Jazz Focus Records, the latter debuted The Kendra Shank Quartet, her current working band. She followed these in 2007 with her groundbreaking A Spirit Free: Abbey Lincoln Songbook, and then with Mosaic in which she married her folk and jazz improvising talents.
Shank has been the Downbeat magazine’s top female vocalist for 1999, 2006 and 2007, has been featured on National Public Radio’s JazzSet and Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland, has taught clinics at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, The New School and the Brooklyn/Queens Conservatory of Music in New York City, and the Jazz in Marciac Festival in France.
Vocalist, guitarist and percussionist Kendra Shank continues express her talents through performance recording and touring.
Victor Stanley Feldman was born on April 7, 1934 in Edgware, London, England and caused a sensation as a musical prodigy when he was discovered at aged seven. His family members were all musical and his father founded the Feldman Swing Club in 1942 to showcase his talented sons. His first professional appearance was playing drums at No. 1 Rhythm Club as a member of the Feldman Trio with brothers Robert on clarinet and Monty on piano accordion.
At eight years old the drummer was featured in the films King Arthur Was A Gentleman and Theatre Royal, in 1944 he was featured as “Kid Krupa” at a Glenn Miller AAAF band concert when he was 10, and went on to play vibraphone for Ralph Sharon Sextet and the Roy Fox band. Victor eventually made piano his instrument of choice and became best known.
Feldman recorded with Ronnie Scott’s orchestra and quintet from 1954 to 1955, and then in 1955 came to the U.S. He first worked with Woody Herman, then with Buddy Defranco. He recorded some thirty albums as a leader and recorded with Benny Goodman, George Shearing, Milt Jackson, Blue Mitchell, Lalo Schifrin, John Klemmer Sam Jones, Cannonball Adderley and others, as well as, Miles Davis on Seven Steps To Heaven, having composed the title track. He was a part of the 5-LP recording of Shelly Manne Black Hawk sessions in 1959.
Feldman settled in Los Angeles permanently and specialized in the lucrative session work for the film and recording industry. He also branched out to work with a variety of musicians outside of jazz, working with artists such as Frank Zappa, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits and Joe Walsh through the Seventies and Eighties.
Vibraphonist, drummer, percussionist, pianist and composer Victor Feldman died on May 12, 1987 at his home in Woodland Hills, California at age 53, following a heart attack. In 2009, he was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.
Ralph MacDonald was born on March 15, 1944 in Harlem, New York under the close mentorship of his Trinbagonian father, Patrick MacDonald, a calypsonian and bandleader known on stage as “Macbeth the Great”. He began showing his musical talent, particularly the steelpan and at 17 started playing pan for the Harry Belafonte show.
Remaining with the Belafonte band for a decade, he struck out on his own in 1967, together with Bill Eaton and William Salter, he formed Anisitia Music, based in Stamford, Connecticut.
MacDonald’s composition Where Is The Love written with Salter was recorded in 1971 by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, won a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and received a gold record status. One of his best-known compositions, Just The Two Of Us” was recorded by Bill Withers with saxophone by Grover Washington, Jr reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has been sampled by many.
Ralph worked with Quincy Jones, Ron Carter, Milt Jackson, Paul Desmond, Max Roach, Don Sebesky, Shirley Scott, Arif Mardin, Hubert Laws, Bob James, David Sanborn, George Benson, Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway, Patti Austin, Bernard Purdie and Grover Washington as well as Burt Bacharach, Carle King, Aretha Franklin, Billy Joel, Average White Band, Art Garfunkel, Ashford & Simpson and numerous others.
He travelled regularly back to Trinidad and Tobago, where he renewed his work in the steelpan, “beating iron” in “The Engine Room”, a steel band’s rhythm section is often called. At 12:50 AM on Sunday, December 18, 2011, songwriter, arranger, record producer, percussionist Ralph MacDonald passed away of lung cancer.
Roy Haynes was born in Boston, Massachusetts on March 13, 1925, and was keenly interested in jazz ever since he can remember. Primarily self-taught, he began to work locally in 1942 with musicians like guitarist Tom Brown, bandleader Sabby Lewis, and Kansas City blues-shout alto saxophonist Pete Brown. In the summer of 1945 he got a call to join bandleader Luis Russell to play for the dancers at New York’s Savoy Ballroom. When not traveling with Russell, the young drummer spent much time on Manhattan’s 52nd Street and uptown in Minton’s, the incubator of bebop.
From 1947 to 1949 Haynes was Lester Young’s drummer, worked with Bud Powell and Miles Davis in ’49, became Charlie Parker’s drummer of choice from 1949 to 1953, toured the world with Sarah Vaughan from 1954 to 1959, did numerous extended gigs with Thelonious Monk in 1959-60. Through the Sixties he performed and recorded with Eric Dolphy, Stan Getz, John Coltrane, has collaborated with Chick Corea since 1968, and with Pat Metheny during the ’90s. He’s been an active bandleader from the late ’50s to the present, featuring on his recordings Phineas Newborn, Booker Ervin, Roland Kirk, George Adams, Hannibal Marvin Peterson, Ralph Moore and Donald Harrison to name a few.
A perpetual top three drummer in the Downbeat Readers Poll Awards, he won the Best Drummer honors in 1996 (and many years since), and in that year received the prestigious French Chevalier des l’Ordres Artes et des Lettres and in 2002 his album “Birds Od A Feather” was nominated for a Grammy. Roy Haynes, percussionist, composer and bandleader nicknamed Snap Crackle, continues to compose, performer, record and tour.
Ralph Towner was born on March 1, 1940 in Chehalis, Washington. Born into a musical family, his mother a piano teacher and his father a trumpet player, Towner learned to improvise on the piano at the age of three. He started trumpet lessons at the age of five, but did not take up guitar until attending the University of Oregon.
Ralph first played jazz in New York City in the late 1960s as a pianist and was strongly influenced by the renowned jazz pianist Bill Evans. He began improvising on classical and 12-string guitars in the late 1960s and early 1970s; and formed alliances with musicians who had worked with Evans, including flautist Jeremy Steig, Eddie Gomez, Marc Johnson, Gary Peacock ad Jack DeJohnette.
He began his career as a conservatory-trained classical pianist, who picked up guitar in his senior year in college, then joined world music pioneer Paul Winter’s Consort ensemble in the late 1960s. Leaving Winter along with band mates Paul McCandless, Glen Moore and Colin Walcott, they formed the group Oregon, mixing folk, Indian classical, avant-garde jazz and frr improvisation.
Around the same time, Towner began a longstanding relationship with ECM Records, releasing virtually all of his non-Oregon recordings since his 1972 debut as a leader Trios / Solos. As a sideman he has ventured int jazz fsion with Weather Report on the 1972 album I Sing The Body Electric.
Unlike most jazz guitarists, Ralph only uses 6-string nylon-string and 12-string steel-string guitars. He tends to avoid high-volume musical environments, preferring small groups of mostly acoustic instruments that emphasize dynamics and group interplay. He make significant use of overdubbing, allowing him to play piano or synthesizer and guitar on the same track. During the Eighties he used more synthesizer but has returned to the guitar in recent years.
Composer, arranger, bandleader and multi-instrumentalist Ralph Towner, who plays 12 string guitar, classical guitar, piano, synthesizer, percussion and trumpet, has an impressive catalogue of some five-dozen recordings spread between his role as a leader, with Oregon, and as a sideman with Paul Winter and Weather Report among others. He continues to perform, record and tour.