FAME Review: Michael O'Neill / Kenny Washington - New Beginnings
Michael O'Neill / Kenny Washington - New Beginnings

New Beginnings

Michael O'Neill / Kenny Washington

Jazzmo Records - JR003

Available from CD Baby.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

We recently caught a bit of vocal pyrotechnician Kenny Washington in The Summarily Dismissed's To Each! (here)…but far too little, to my way of thinking and, I'm sure, to yours as well. Ahhhhh, but now horn player / band leader Michael O'Neill brings him back for a full CD, and we REALLY get to wallow in some great laryngeal and instrumental jazz. More, listen to Dan Feiszli's funky-assed bass work in the opening cut (he also co-produced and co-engineered the entire gig, a triple threat kinda guy), the classic A Night in Tunisia, after Washington gets done be-boppin' all over the dance floor, on the walls, and even down from the ceiling. The amazing Geoffrey Keezer uproots the keys from his piano, carrying on permutations of the melody line, O'Neill and Erik Jekabson sprinting in at the end of the interlude to cap things off.

There's more than a little Al Jarreau to Washington, some John Hendricks, and so on but much is a matter of his own tones, so much so the latter that I'm curiously reminded of one of my favorite female singers, Randy Crawford, probably because Washington's work is never brittle, not once arch or malevolent, always with curving edges and smooth contours even when revved up and flying. He actually defines the melodics on every cut, horns bedding everything further down in the matrix before everyone sets off for soloing horizons. O'Neill gives tons of room to everyone, and they return his good graces with top-notch performances, the sort of thing you'd hear at The Playboy Jazz Fest…when it's serious…which frequently it isn't…dammit.

The arch Creation of the Universe leads into a mysterious intro reading of It Ain't Necessarily So that remains laconic but hip in Washington's vocals, sax and trumpet underscoring the evolving theme. O'Neill comes around in a Wayne Shortery solo to expand the milieu, but Jekabson cools the process back down again, thoughtful, searching, making way for Keezer to cut into the mid-ground. All the time, drummer Alan Hall is setting a jungle around everyone in a blanket of rolling chops and punctations, creating an impenetrable thicket here, paving a promenade there, defining the borders of the milieu. In Fly Me to the Moon, Washington and O'Neill reverse roles, the former smooth and balladic, the latter abstract and larksome, Keezer pacing him, comping perfectly every step of the way, as though a recital accompaniment for the vocalesque lines O'Neill's emitting. Lots to like in old ways and New Beginnings.

Track List:

  • A Night In Tunisia (Gillespie / Paparelli / Hendricks)
  • On Green Dolphin Street (Kaper / Washington)
  • Stella By Starlight (Washington / Young)
  • Creation Of The Universe (Geoffrey Keezer)
  • It Ain't Necessarily So (Gershwin / Gershwin/ Heyward / Heyward)
  • Fly Me To The Moon (Bart Howard)
  • All The Things You Are (Kern / Hammerstein II)
  • Oh What A Beautiful Morning (Rodgers / Hammerstein II)
  • The Surrey With The Fringe On Top (Hammerstein II / Rodgers)
  • Dinah (Akst / Young / Lewis)
  • Nomali (Caiphus Semenya)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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