Michael O'Neill & Kenny Washington reinvent the Great American Songbook with stunning results.
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com
The name Kenny Washington may not be familiar to some of you, that should change soon. Ask some of his contemporaries such as Wynton Marsalis, Joe Locke and Geoffrey Keezer and will tell you he is widely considered as one of the finest jazz singers in the business while keeping a surprising low profile in the improvisational hot bed that is San Francisco. New Beginnings is a collaboration with premier saxophonist and arranger Michael O'Neill that could easily give one the impression these standards were written specifically for Washington.
O'Neill knows how to play off the skills of Washington and the end result would be where melodies are never mangled but instead pushed ahead into new harmonic areas of exploration. The band is A list with the previously mention Geoffrey Keezer sitting in on tunes such as "Stella By Starlight" and "Fly Me To The Moon." The mambo infused "Stella By Starlight" allows fresh life for a time tested classic while Washington's scatting on "A Night In Tunisa" allows him to take personal ownership of the standard if only for one session.
Anytime what would essentially be covered a "cover" release of these standards hit then it is usually feast or a lyrical train wreck with arrangement that simply run right off the melodic cliff. Well conceived and impeccably presented, New Beginnings is just that and perhaps the best Great American Songbook release in the last decade. Flawless.
Personnel: Kenny Washington: Vocals; Michael O'Neill: Tenor and Soprano Saxophone, Bass Clarinet; Erik Jekabson: Trumpet and Flugelhorn; Geoffrey Keezer: Piano (1-8); John R. Burr: Piano (9-11); Dan Feiszli: Electric and Acoustic Bass; Alan Hall: Drums; Christian Pepin: Congas on Stella By Starlight.
Special Thanks To Michael Bloom of Michael Bloom Media Relations