A ‘jazz church’ set in a Sonoma Valley barn

Posted on August 18, 2019 by Sonoma Valley Sun

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. 

Jazz vocalist Kenny Washington

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.

Jeff Massanari on guitar 

The guitar solos on Dindi and Lush Life (a request) hit the ball out of the park chromatically. When you get a chance, listen.


3 thoughts on “A ‘jazz church’ set in a Sonoma Valley barn

  1. Just an ergregious error in reporting. LUSH LIFE is copyrighed soley to Billy Strayhorn who wrote both the music and lyrics before he ever met Duke Ellington. Not only did Ellington not write the song, it was never recorded or performed by Ellington or his band and was never a part of the band’s book. Please issue a retraction.


    A. Alyce Claerbaut, President
    Billy Strayhorn Songs, Inc.

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