Introducing Kenya Travitt
Kenya Travitt is a native of Newark, NJ, a city with a rich jazz history. Growing up in the 70's in an activist/artist family, Kenya was always exposed to great music. Her father always had on local jazz radio station WRVR, which played everyone from Dizzy, Duke and Dinah to Miriam Makeba, Minnie Ripperton and Gil Scott Heron. Kenya is quick to note that she also got a good dose of R&B. "During family road trips to the South, we only had four 8-track tapes to listen to: The Temptations Greatest Hits, Gladys Knight, The Delfonics and Nancy Wilson," the singer recalls. "At five years old, I memorized Nancy Wilson's Guess Who I Saw Today, which amused and delighted my father immensely!" Kenya's career began in the early 90s where she made her mark in the underground dance music scene with a hit called "Come Into My Heart" (Big Beat Records)-though she was barely old enough to get into the clubs where the song was played! Seeking to strengthen her natural talent with scholarship, Kenya sought a graduate degree in African Cultural Aesthetics with a focus on African and African American Cross-Cultural Connections and Musical Influences at Philadelphia's Temple University. As an undergraduate Music Major at Spelman, Kenya was a founding member of the institution's Jazz Ensemble. Music, it seems, has literally been her life. So it makes sense that her debut, Introducing Kenya Travitt, is a moving, marvelous collection of standards musing on life and love. Songs made famous by Natalie Cole, Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday are rendered here with pure, lighthearted sweetness. "Much of what we think of as jazz standards actually originated as Broadway show tunes," Kenya explains. "Great jazz singers like Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughn and Billie Holiday re-positioned and added these songs to the jazz lexicon with fresh emotional nuances or made them swing." With the help of extraordinary musicians such as pianist Tommy James (Patti Austin, Marlena Shaw) and members of the re-known Duke Ellington Orchestra, Kenya also delivers phenomenal jazz interpretations of tunes like The Main Ingredient's "Happiness Is Just Around the Bend" and Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable," demonstrating her talents as a lyric soprano. "All music is up for re-interpretation," Kenya says, adding: "Jazz is a music that is boundless!" Introducing is the first album off of Moving Forward Now Records (MFNR), a partnership including Kenya's producer/arranger Darryl E. Smith, and band member Rob Lanham. The label's goal is to recognize jazz artists who are breaking musical boundaries-much like Kenya and her stellar debut. "My goal with Introducing is to take good music that you haven't heard in the jazz context and 'twerk it just a bit," she says laughing. But, Kenya Travitt is no joke. "I want to fuse genres and build bridges to a wider audience without compromising the integrity of true acoustic, classical jazz music. I want to do what just feels right."