Jason grew up in Tallahassee, FL where he began studying drum set from Butch Trucks (Allman Brothers) at the age of fifteen and within a year began gigging professionally. After high school, he studied symphonic percussion at Florida State and then transferred to UNT in Denton, TX to focus on jazz.
After graduation, he moved to Austin and began studying tabla with Aloke Dutta. After Aloke relocated to LA, Jason began studying with various professional tabla players who toured through Austin.
Jason traveled twice to India to study tabla with Gouri Shankar and kanjira with Sathish Pathakota, Ganesh Kumar, and Subash Chandran. He has also toured the West Coast with the American-Iranian artist Fared Shafinury and has toured in Taiwan, Hawaii, Mexico and Spain with the ground-breaking world fusion group Atash.
In the early 2000’s, Jason lived in California and began touring with pop artist Matt Nathanson and spent his time off the road attending Ali Akbar College of Music. He also played tabla for legendary world/electronic pioneer Cheb i Sabbah in San Francisco.
In 2007, Jason moved back to Austin, Texas to focus on Atash while furthering his education in audio engineering and sound synthesis. He also began playing drums for Texas songwriting legend, Billy Joe Shaver.
In 2011, Jason performed drum set in Oman with Indian fusion group NAAD featuring jazz legends Fareed Haque and Kai Eckhardt. He has also recorded tabla with artists Jef Stott and David Starfire as well as drum set for the Desert Dwellers . In 2014, he played drum set with ground breaking Indian-American producer Karsh Kale in Austin and with Willie Nelson & Billy Joe Shaver on Late Night with David Letterman in New York.
Currently, he is producing and performing original world/electronic music under the name Sunray Project.
Sunray Project is an eclectic blend of electronic music and live performance led by Jason McKenzie who usually performs solo incorporating live tabla and kanjira playing with his electronic production.
Live shows will often feature a guest artist selected from an array of world music talent living in Austin, TX.
Sunray Project has performed at the Hookahdome at Burning Man with vocalist Fared Shafinury and has DJ’d at Art Outside in 2010, 2011, and 2014.
The Sunray Project debut LP was released on 6/5/15 and features Ustad Ramesh Mishra, Indrajit Banerjee, Oliver Rajamani, Nirmalya Roy, Anastasia “Anya” Smith, Olivia Mojica, Santanu Bandyopadhyay, Fared Shafinury, Neyveli Radhakrishna, Aboubakar Sylla, Brad Houser, Fareed Haque, Mohammad Firoozi, and Roberto Riggio.
Aficionados of jazz, progressive rock, ethnic, classical and instrumental music will delight to the rich modalities, melodies and rhythms of this unique style of world music in which the singer’s voice, chanting in Farsi, serves as the centerpiece, an instrument in and of itself.
The members of Atash include Roberto Riggio and John Moon on violins, Mohammad Firoozi on vocals, Dylan Jones on upright bass, Christian Fernandez on flamenco guitar, Indrajit Banerjee on sitar, Alseny Sylla on djembe, and Jason McKenzie on drum set, tabla, kanjira, and dumbek.
The texts sung have a basis in modern and traditional Sufi poetry, and carry a message of peace and global harmony. Although Atash is an all-acoustic ensemble, audiences with a taste for electronica are also devout fans of this world-class group.
Atash calls Austin, TX their home where they have been awarded “World Music Band of the Year” by the Austin Chronicle Reader’s Poll six years in a row.