The Kenya Hall Band has just released its debut, “Learning for Miles, Vol. 1,” and it’s a neo-soul sensation of an album. Hall’s got a smooth, full-bodied voice, and she knows how to use it, whether she’s singing about the singular pain of lost love or the global spirit of human understanding.

She has also surrounded herself with a dynamite assembly of musicians.

On keyboards, guitar and synthesizer is the album’s producer, Frank Hopkins, who also penned two of the songs on “Learning.” The album was recorded at his Sweet Dream Recording Studio. Josh Robbins skillfully holds down the rhythm section on bass. Calvin McIlwain is the album’s other guitarist; he also plays keys and wrote two of the tracks. Anchoring the band on drums and back-up vocals is Chas Lester.

There are no less than 12 special guests on this album, lending their talents on everything form mini-moog and back-up vocals to guitar and horns. Mark Tipton blows his trumpet on one track, Lady Zen sings gorgeous back-up on three tunes, and the rest of the crew is scattered all over the 12 songs.

“Can We Go Back” is the springboard from which the rest of the album is revealed. This song’s got it all — horns, keyboards, killer back-up vocals and funky bass lines. “You make my everything withstand anything,” sings Hall in a voice bursting with star quality.

“Connection” continues the journey of this record with moody, lively piano and subtle cymbal crashes. Lady Zen’s backing vocals add further depth to a song that is already so rich. When I say that this is truly an outstanding song, I am not kidding. It has polish without sounding over-produced.

The impassioned groove that defines “Learning” winds its way through the rest of the album and culminates with “Understanding.” The song starts with an acoustic guitar, then gospel-like backing vocals come in. “We are all just doing the best we can, so come on and understand, have some understanding,” sings Hall.

“Learning for Miles, Vol. 1” is a vibrant, classy album that I loved getting swept up in and will be enjoying the sound of indefinitely. It’s available at Bull Moose Music locations.

Aimsel Ponti is a Portland freelance writer. Contact her at:

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