KENIA is renowned for her ability to translate the complex rhythms of her Brazilian homeland into jazzy creations that made her a star of the smooth jazz movement two decades ago. Her 2016 release on Mooka Records, “On We Go,” is a fresh collection of songs that will entice a new generation of listeners, as it showcases Kenia at the top of her form with a seductive, polished vocal phrasing. “Once again, the vocalist has bridged jazz, international pop and Brazilian music and done so effortlessly, in one of her best works to date” (Jazz Corner). “It’s hard to believe Kenia approaches any song with any trepidation. On her new album whether it’s the fast-moving, hip-swaying “Summertime” or the languid ballad, “Melancia,” she’s confident, as if engaged in a natural conversation with friends against a fantastic musical backdrop that refuses to stay down for long” (Carol Banks Weber – AXS). She has taken us on a beautiful, soulful journey, revisiting her beginnings and looking towards the future… “On We Go.”
Kenia’s music continues to transcend geographic and musical boundaries. Throughout her storied recording career, Kenia has performed at national and international festivals from the Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival to the Bonaire Heineken Jazz Festival in the ABC Islands. She has collaborated not only with jazz icons but also with up and coming artists, such as a 2011 show with Pittsburgh-based trumpeter Sean Jones. She is equally enchanting performing standards by big names (Gershwin, Lennon and McCartney), works by contemporary composers (Romero Lubambo, Luiz Simas) and original material with her own lyrics and music composed for Kenia by the likes of Antonio Adolfo.
For many jazz fans in the 1980s and 90s, Kenia’s singing was the gateway to contemporary Brazilian jazz and pop. She stood out from her compatriots because of her intimate, smooth vocals—subtle yet soulful—and her finesse with both American standards and Brazilian material. Arriving in the United States in 1980, Kenia quickly established herself as the hot new Brazilian singer on the NYC scene and recorded her U.S. debut with trumpeter Claudio Roditi on his album “Red on Red.” She launched her solo recording career, turning out four popular and critically acclaimed albums for the MCA and Denon labels between 1987 and 1991. Music legends James Taylor, Michael Brecker, and Chuck Loeb (Fourplay) invited her to record on their albums, and Donald Harrison utilized Kenia’s vocals on the soundtrack for the Brazilian documentary, “The Devil’s Toothpick.” In 1997, she launched her own label, Mooka Records, with a particularly ambitious effort: “Project Ivan Lins,” a tribute to one of Brazil’s most prolific and popular contemporary songwriters, featuring Lins himself as a special guest.