Finally! Kenny Washington has released his debut studio album. After enjoying him on David K. Mathews’ The Fantasy Vocal Sessions, Vols. 1 & 2 or his own two live albums Live at Anna’s Jazz Island and Live at Jazzhus Montmartre: Moanin’, Kenny has pulled together a brilliant band of long-time associates to give full-throated expression to his track list of choice. And what a track list! From the Gershwins to Harold Arlen to Duke Ellington to Rodgers & Hart to Antonio Carlos Jobim to…wait for it…Charlie Chaplin.
Band supporting Kenny Washington's vocals are Josh Nelson on piano, Gary Brown on acoustic bass (except track 9), Lorca Hart on drums, Victor Goines on tenor sax and clarinet (tracks 3 &10), Jeff Massanari on guitar (tracks 2, 4 &11), Mike Olmos (track 5) on trumpet, Peter Michael Escovedo on bongos (track 7), Dan Feiszli on acoustic bass (track 9), Jeff Cressman on trombone (track 10), and Ami Molinelli-Hart on percussion (track 10).
It all starts with Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh’s The Best is Yet to Come, singing Out of the Tree of Life/I just picked me a plum. And yes indeed, this song is a plum and a great introduction to the album. It is a foretelling of the rest of the album and of Kenny career in music. Josh Nelson’s piano is cool and accompanies Kenny brilliantly. Kenny’s intonations and phrasings are spectacular.
S’Wonderful (George & Ira Gershwin) is accompanied by Jeff Massanari on guitar. Kenny treats us to a little whistle and scat on the outro and it is a wonderfully light reverie. Stars Fell on Alabama turns in a bluesy direction with Victor Goines on tenor sax. Nelson’s piano is sweet in step with Goines and some fine bass work from Gary Brown.
Then comes a fine binary star system of Harold Arlen’s I’ve Got the World on a String with Duke Ellington’s A Ain’t Got Nothin’ But the Blues. From the Massanari picking guitar on the former to the beautiful blues of the Josh Nelson piano and Mike Olmos trumpet. This track list is put together in excellent order with excellent transitions and Kenny simply owns it all.
Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered (Rodgers & Hart) is a gorgeous piece of music. Kenny makes this his own in so many special ways. He just seems to feel it. I have always loved this song and Kenny makes me love it all the more. I’ll sing to her/Each Spring to her/And long for the day/When I’ll cling to her.
It makes me think of my sweet wife and Kenny sings exactly what I feel when I think of her. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Then we jump into the Peter Michael Escovedo bongo introduction of Invitation (Bronislaw Kaper/Paul Francis Webster). Gary Brown’s bass, Lorca Hart’s drums, and Josh Nelson’s piano are all just on fire. Kenny keeps control of the pace and emotion and lets the rhythm section lay out a fantastic carpet for him. It is eminently clear why Kenny has chosen these artists.
Here’s to Life (Phyllis Jean Molinary/Artie Butler) is an almost anthemic lament. Another beautiful piece with a melancholic delivery of gratitude and grace. Nelson’s piano pairs so effortlessly with Kenny’s exquisite vocals.
Sweet Georgia Brown is one of the best-known songs in the world, especially if you’re a Harlem Globetrotters fan. Dan Feiszli gets the acoustic bass duties and carries sole instrumental responsibilities against Kenny’s scats and vocals. The bass solo is worthy of attention and affection.
Chega de Saudade (No More Blues) is the Jobim classic rendered in English lyrics by Jon Hendricks. Kenny is supported by Nelson, Brown, Hart and Goines with the addition of Jeff Cressman on trombone and Ami Molinelli-Hart on percussion. Joy permeates the song with saying farewell to blues and heading to the happiness of home. Nelson echoes Kenny scat and pay special attention to Goines’ clarinet. This was a blast.
The album closes with Charlie Chaplin’s Smile. It is a fitting benediction. Such a beautiful close to such a beautiful album.
There isn’t a single weak spot on the whole album. Kenny Washington has the right artists for the right songs that are right for him. With all the waiting for this release, with all the desire to move along past where we are in the world, Kenny Washington is right in asking…What’s the Hurry.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl
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