Monday, July 20, 2020

Kenny Washington: “What’s The Hurry” (2020) CD Review

Kenny Washington is a talented jazz vocalist who was born in New Orleans and now resides near San Francisco. You’ve heard him sing on albums by The Michael O’Neill Quintet, David D. Mathews, and The Tommy Igoe Groove Conspiracy. Now he is at last releasing his debut studio album as a leader. Titled What’s The Hurry, this album finds the outstanding vocalist tackling some great standards, and breathing new life into them. Joining him on this release are Josh Nelson on piano, Gary Brown on acoustic bass, and Lorca Hart on drums. Not a bad band, eh? There are also several guests on various tracks.

What’s The Hurry opens with a bright, wonderful rendition of “The Best Is Yet To Come.” You certainly don’t have to wait long before Kenny Washington demonstrates his tremendous vocal talent. This track also features some wonderful work by Josh Nelson on piano, and by Gary Brown on bass. With Kenny’s vocal performance here, he makes me believe that indeed the best is yet to come, and that it’s right around the corner. I am so ready. “The Best Is Yet To Come” is followed by “‘S Wonderful.” I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll say it again: You can never go wrong with Gershwin. On this album Kenny Washington delivers a really good rendition of “‘S Wonderful,” backed by some nice work by Jeff Massanari on guitar (he delivers an excellent solo halfway through). I do need to point out that on the CD case, the apostrophe is in the wrong place, the song listed as “S’ Wonderful” rather than “‘S Wonderful,” a somewhat common mistake. Anyway, toward the end, Kenny Washington offers some cheerful whistling and a bit of scat. Oh yes, life is good. Sometimes I forget that, and I need music like this to remind me.

This version of “Stars Fell On Alabama” begins in such a cool way, with bass and saxophone. That’s Victor Goines on tenor saxophone. Then Kenny’s voice is so smooth, so good, so beautiful, making this an absolutely wonderful track. Seriously, it is a delight from beginning to end. There is some excellent work on piano, and a great lead on bass that feels so nimble it could just pick us up and dance us right up the side of a building. This track is certainly one of the disc’s highlights. That’s followed by “I’ve Got The World On A String,” which features a wonderful guitar solo by Jeff Massanari. It’s so good that I’m surprised when I don’t hear applause at its conclusion. It has that live feel, you know? “Lucky me, can’t you see I’m in love/Life is a beautiful thing/As long as I hold the string.” Kenny Washington delivers another excellent vocal performance in “I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But The Blues.” And while he may not have anything but the blues, he seems to have some great companions in the instruments that accompany him. They seem to be giving him support and encouragement, particularly the trumpet and piano. I completely love Mike Olsmos’ work on trumpet, which is so expressive, and just so damn cool.

Kenny Washington delivers the first lines of “Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered” a cappella. This is a pretty rendition featuring some moving work on piano. Then “Invitation” begins with some percussion. Peter Michael Escovedo plays bongos on this track. This is a lively rendition, particularly that piano part, which thrilled me the first time I heard it, and of course that powerful vocal performance. There is a cute little ending on percussion, like an afterthought, which made me laugh. Then a more romantic sound on piano starts the next track, “Here’s To Life.” This song often makes me sad, as do many songs about aging and looking back. “Funny how the time just flies/How love can go from warm hellos/To sad goodbyes/And leave you with the memories you've memorized/To keep your winters warm.” Though this one has a positive feel. Kenny Washington gives another passionate and moving vocal performance. “As long as I’m still in the game/I want to play/For life, for laughs, for love.”

“Sweet Georgia Brown” is always a delight, and this version is pretty cool, with Kenny Washington’s voice supported by bass. That’s Dan Feiszli on bass on this track. Kenny delivers some scat, which is followed by a wonderful bass solo. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a version quite like this one. That’s followed by a bright and cheerful rendition of “No More Blues (Chega De Saudade),” featuring more great work on piano, as well as some nice stuff from the horn section of Victor Goines and Jeff Cressman. Ami Molinelli-Hart contributes some good percussion on this track. There is a whole lot of joy in the performance of this one. This track seems capable of eliminating blues. “When we settle down, there’ll be no more blues.” The album then concludes with “Smile,” a song that I love. On this rendition Kenny Washington is backed by Jeff Massanari on guitar. We can all use the reminder to smile these days, eh? It certainly isn’t always easy. “If you smile through your fears and sorrow/Smile and maybe tomorrow/You’ll see the sun come shining through/For you.”

CD Track List
  1. The Best Is Yet To Come
  2. ‘S Wonderful
  3. Stars Fell On Alabama
  4. I’ve Got The World On A String
  5. I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But The Blues
  6. Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered
  7. Invitation
  8. Here’s To Life
  9. Sweet Georgia Brown
  10. No More Blues (Chega De Saudade)
  11. Smile
What’s The Hurry is scheduled to be released on August 14, 2020 on Lower 9th Records.

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