KJ Denhert

KJ Denhert

KJ’s performances will move you to laugh, to dance and even to cry. Her special blend of urban folk & jazz has earned her four Independent Music Award nominations and in ’09, she was named as one of Jazz.com’s top female vocalists. She’s appeared at scores of festivals and has residencies at the ’55 Bar’, Smoke in NYC, at the Baz Bar in St. Barth’s, and the prestigious Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy. Her very latest, “Album No.9″, a collection of 60’s jazz, pop and rock standards is set for release on Motema Music in Europe & the US in the fall 2010. Consistently praised for her pathos, originality and impeccable musicianship, KJ is a one of a kind songwriter, guitarist and performer, not to be missed.


In the 1980s, KJ toured for six years as the lead guitarist and occasional vocalist with an all-female band called Fire, playing rock and top-40 music throughout the US, Canada and Europe. After the group ran its course, she worked at a day job while continuing to write and play music. While working in Cleveland as a financial analyst, she started the Mother Cyclone label and made her first recording. Moving home to New York in 1997, she formed the NY Unit, a group that she still performs with. “I look for players who have an ability to groove and have lots of drama in their playing.


In addition to running her own band and Mother Cyclone label, KJ has been named among the six winners of the Kerrville New Folk Song contest in June 2006 for “Private Angel” and won the Mountain Stage New Song contest in August 05 for “Little Mary.”  Another Year Gone By, Live won the 2006 Independent Music Award for Best Live Performance.

Album No. 9       

“This is an album about freedom,” says KJ Denhert, reflecting on her ninth release aptly titled Album No.9, with nine songs, featuring nine musicians and recorded over the span of nine months. “If you are into numerology, you might have guessed by now that my life-path number is 9. Coincidence? Actually, yes, all of it.” Derived from one’s date of birth, number nines tend to be creative, passionate, and humanitarian (Ghandi, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix are also nines).

KJ’s humanitarian side is particularly obvious on a number of songs, including her rendition of “Help.” Touched by the devastating events in Haiti and by the Louisiana oil spill, KJ believed that the essence of the song resonates stronger than ever today. Though she originally hoped that including the tune would inspire listeners to contribute to a cause that touched them personally, during the recording session, KJ came to the realization that the song’s message is as personal as it is universal, and that  it’s just as important to be able ask for and receive help yourself at times of need as it is to be able to give. Number 9 exudes a  positive outlook on distinctive renditions of such well known songs as  “Pennies from Heaven” – “There’s no more hopeful song in the world,” says KJ –  and on powerful originals, such as “Choose Your Weapon.” and ‘Let it Go.’ Recorded completely live,  “Pennies from Heaven” remains one of KJ’s favorite standards. Originally recorded by Bing Crosby, the song sends a message about the importance of facing challenges head on, believing that everything will be all right in the end. Powered by a strong reggae beat,  “Choose your Weapon” rhythmically states KJ’s belief in the individual power of one’s voice, inspired by Saffire’s Gaye Agedbola’s quote, “Speaking your heart is your weapon.”

KJ’s inimitable way with lyrics is obvious throughout, whether she’s singing about the misadventures of trying to make a record on her remarkable version of Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” (“Richie Blackmore ‘borrowed’ the song’s opening riff from a song recorded by Astrud Gilberto, so because of it’s Brazililan roots, it’s not such a stretch for me to cover it,” laughs KJ) or learning not to sweat the small things on “Let It Go,” which was co-written with German singer San Glaser,  and which contains what she claims is “her favorite bridge of all time, offering a tip of the hat to Donald Fagen.”

Recording at Bicoastal Music Studios in KJ’s home town of Ossining, NY,  KJ co-produced Number 9with  studio owner Hal Winer, whose world class facility has hosted the likes of Rob Thomas,  the Yellowjackets and Bjork.  She is supported by a strong cadre of players, including longtime band members Mamadou Ba , (Harry Belafonte, Regina Carter)  on bass and drummer Ray Levier.  Saxophonist, Aaron Heick (Richard Bona, Chaka Khan, Sting) has remained a regular since his debut on KJ’s 2007 recording Dal Vivo a Umbria Jazz, while balancing a busy schedule that paired him with Sting on the latest recording of of “Englishman in New York.”

A string arrangement by Clifford Carter (James Taylor, Michael Franks, Mark Egan) and performances by Ralph Farris (viola) and Dorothy Lawson (cello) of the happening string quartet, Ethel (who have also collaborated with David Byrne and Kurt Elling) bring a sophisticated dimension to “Help,” which was selected by KJ to be Album No. 9’s first single, with a moving video that debuted on the web on 9/9 to fete the European release of Album No, 9 in September 2010.

Album No. 9 embodies all of the inspiring qualities of the number nine, emphasizing creativity, compassion and perseverance despite life’s obstacles. With this further step in the evolution of her career, KJ once again reveals her true colors as a completely singular songwriter, musician, and performer.


Add a comment