Jazz drummer joins stellar list of artists in residence

Kenny Washington bops into town as the next MSU Federal Credit Union Jazz Artist in Residence 

Photo: Jazz drummer Kenny Washington performing on stage.
Kenny Washington, a hard-bop revivalist in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, became an in-demand performer with some of the biggest names in jazz. Photo by Johan Broberg.


A hard-bop revivalist and session drummer for some of the biggest names in jazz will teach, tour and share his experiences with jazz studies students at Michigan State University from Dec. 2-8.

Kenny Washington is the second of four jazz artists this academic year to swing into East Lansing to mentor aspiring musicians through the MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence program. Launched in 2013, the pioneering residency program coordinated by the MSU College of Music models the long-standing jazz tradition of established musicians passing on their knowledge to the next generation of jazz artists.

As a jazz artist in residence, Washington will start the week with a special performance at the MSU Federal Credit Union, and on-campus workshops with MSU Jazz Studies students. The drummer then takes to the road with MSU Jazz Orchestra I to teach and perform at Michigan schools, arts academies and community venues in Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor, followed by a return to MSU’s campus to perform with MSU Jazz Orchestras at Fairchild Theatre on Dec. 6, and then finishing the residency with performances in Detroit and Muskegon.

Instructor of Jazz Drums Randy Gelispie said he has known Washington for a long time, having worked the same circuits in cities like Chicago and Detroit. He added that Washington is a highly regarded performer, as well as a fantastic teacher.

“It’s exciting to have him come here and work with our students,” Gelispie said. “They’ll learn a lot from him simply by watching how he approaches the drums. He knows how to prepare his students for the stage and to anticipate what’s coming their way.”

The Brooklyn-born Washington appeared on the scene as a young, hard-bop revivalist in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s and became an in-demand performer with some of the biggest names in jazz. A prolific freelancer and session musician, Washington originally studied with Dizzy Gillespie drummer Rudy Collins and attended New York’s LaGuardia High School for Music and Art.

Washington compiled an enormous discography performing with prominent, legendary jazz musicians including Ronnie Matthews, Lee Konitz, Betty Carter, Johnny Griffin, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, George Cables, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Sonny Stitt, James Spaulding, Phil Woods, Bill Charlap, Bobby Watson, Curtis Lundy and Tommy Flanagan. He currently plays with Ahmad Jamal.

Washington has a strong interest in jazz history, developed through his years of working with jazz greats. He has written liner notes and helped prepare classic jazz re-releases by Art Blakey, Count Basie and others. Washington has taught drumming at the New School in New York City, and worked as an announcer at the New Jersey jazz radio station WBGO.

“Mr. Washington is the most knowledgeable jazz musician alive in regards to jazz history and recordings,” said MSU Director of Jazz Studies Rodney Whitaker. “His knowledge and depth of information and understanding of jazz shines through and informs every rhythm and nuance of his drumming.”

Now in its seventh year, the MSU Federal Credit Union Jazz Artist in Residence program attracts high-level talent and serves as a model for jazz studies programs nationwide. Inspiring lineups provide students and communities a rare opportunity to listen to and learn from high-energy, well-known musicians and virtuosos who are equally accomplished as educators, composers and arrangers shaping the world of jazz.

All combined, the residencies of the 25 artists to-date included workshops, concerts, events and outreach to more than 30,200 students and adults at non-profit organizations, middle and high schools and communities across Michigan. Washington is the second in the versatile line-up of MSUFCU Jazz Artists in Residence for 2019-2020, which kicked-off with trumpeter Tanya Darby in October. Pianist Bruce Barth and trumpeter Terell Stafford will be featured artists in 2020, with residencies in late winter and spring.

Washington will perform with the MSU Jazz Orchestra I led by Rodney Whitaker in the MSU Fairchild Theatre on Friday, Dec. 6, at 8 p.m. The concert will also showcase performances with MSU Jazz Orchestra II led by Michael Dease and MSU Jazz Orchestra III led by Caleb McMahon and Michael Reed. Tickets are $17 adults; $15 seniors; $7 for students and those under 18 with valid ID, and are available from the College of Music box office—in person at the Music Building, Room 102, 333 W. Circle Drive or over the phone at (517) 353-5340—online at music.msu.edu, or at the door one hour before the show.
 


Schedule: MSUFCU Jazz Artist in Residence Kenny Washington

  • Monday, Dec. 2, Press Day, MSFCU Blue Monday at MSUFCU Headquarters
  • Tuesday, Dec. 3, Rehearsals and Workshops at MSU
  • Wednesday, Dec. 4, Hackett Catholic Central High School, Kalamazoo
  • Thursday, Dec. 5, Ann Arbor Huron, Ann Arbor Pioneer, and Ann Arbor Community High Schools, Ann Arbor; at Ann Arbor Huron
  • Friday, Dec. 6, MSU Fairchild Theatre with MSU Jazz Orchestras
  • Saturday, Dec. 7, Noel Night, Detroit, Location TBA
  • Sunday, Dec. 8, Muskegon Community College, Fricano’s Event Center, Muskegon

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