Despite what many may think, there's no prescribed timeline for firsts and career milestones. Some artists decide to initially take the reins to record when they're 18. Others only get around to doing it when they're 80. The bottom line: The right time is the right time, and nobody should worry about getting there before they're ready. What's the hurry?
Feeding into that line of thinking is the debut studio date from veteran vocalist Kenny Washington. A native of the Crescent City who cut his teeth as both a saxophonist and singer, Washington worked his way through military bands in his younger years before settling in the Bay Area in the mid 1990s. He made a name for himself on the San Francisco scene rather quickly, but that was really just the beginning. Washington's soulful pipes, easy way with a song, and tremendous heart kept drawing serious attention on the other side of the country. Saxophonist Roy Nathanson drafted him for his jazz-theater piece Fire at Keaton's Bar & Grill
, which placed him in the company of Elvis Costello
, Debbie Harry, and Nancy King
; vibraphonist Joe Locke
brought him into the fold at Dizzy's Club-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center, where the pair knocked out audiences by covering everything from the work of Henry Mancini to Neil Young to The Isley Brothers; and Wynton Marsalis
saw fit to tap Washington's talent in a variety of settingsa 2013 return to the Pulitzer-winning oratorio Blood on the Fields
, tributes to vocal icons like Frank Sinatra
and Ella Fitzgerald
, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra's annual holiday celebration, to name a few.
Meanwhile, when not hopping on a plane to perform in New York, Washington remained plenty busy in his adoptive hometown, appearing on multiple recordings with saxophonist Michael O'Neill
, covering Stevie Wonder
's "Overjoyed" with the Pacific Mambo Orchestra
on that band's Grammy-winning debut, and building an appreciative following of his own through gigs of varied sorts. He even managed to find the time to record two live albumsone in Berkeley, California, the other in Denmarkthat furthered his reputation. But a studio set just didn't settle into the mix...until 2020.
Fronting a crack band on a series of classics, Washington triumphs with instinctive charms. His tremendous skills as a singer and interpreter are only surpassed by his honesty, and that's apparent in every one of these settings. Whether riding and rising above the laid-back swing and modulating tides of opener "The Best is Yet to Come," testifying to the title of "I Ain't Got Nothin' But the Blues" alongside trumpeter Mike Olmos
, owning a deeply-felt ballad like "Here's to Life," or scatting and bouncing around "Sweet Georgia Brown" with guest bassist Dan Feiszli
, Washington is never less than dazzling. And with pianist Josh Nelson
backing him up and providing the bulk of the arrangements, multi-reedist Victor Goines
adding his clarinet and tenor saxophone to the mix, and several other notables, like trombonist Jeff Cressman
, joining in, he's always in stellar company. A singer of Kenny Washington's talents deserves no less.
The Best is Yet to Come; S'Wonderful. Stars
Fell on Alabama; I've Got the World on a
String; I Ain't Got Nothin' But the
Blues; Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered;
Invitation; Here's to Life; Sweet Georgia
Brown; No More Blues (Chega De