Review by Nancy Briggs, Ph.D.
It’s oxymoronic that rising jazz stars may be veterans of the scene, but that’s jazz for you. New Orleans native Kenny Washington (not to be mistaken with New York drummer), and Jeff Massanari (not “Jeff Maserati”, as Kenny jokingly introduced him, though he sure can purr) proved that — hooray — jazz lives.
The ‘Jazz in the Barn’ show on August 17 was presented by the Sonoma Valley Jazz Society.
In their two sets about an hour each, the Bay Area-based artists didn’t need a rhythm section to complement their duets. Each player gave the impression that they could carry a solo show. The interplay and communication between the two was extraordinary.
Near the end of the first set, a request for Billy Stayhorn’s Lush Life went out — a technically challenging piece with five flats. They unexpectedly pulled it off with elan, which people talked about all night long.
The set lists centered around traditional standards from the Great American Songbook. The interpretations transcended tradition both in harmonic invention and contemporary stylings. This was “jazz church”; a musical “darshan”. This was music in the moment, as good as it gets.
Time After Time, When Sunny Gets Blue, Come Rain or Come Shine, Caravan… the music entered exploratory territory with sophisticated vocalese (with influences from Jon Hendricks and Bobby McFerrin). Mr. Washington finds new meanings in the lyrics, and inhabits them. His handily improvised outros with Mr. Massanari never disappointed.
The guitar solos on Dindi and Lush Life (a request) hit the ball out of the park chromatically. When you get a chance, listen.