Something’s happening in Jazz and Kamasi Washington has revived a long dormant spirit of the music by breaking down those imaginary barriers in music and injecting it with a fresher edge. The Epic can open your minds with a feeling of excitement and raw edge, taking you back to where it all started – the underground.
So admittedly it does feel a little out of place now after this new energy, to be listening to Kamasi talked about on BBC Radio 3 even though traditionally that’s where Jazz has been relegated to over the years. Somehow Kamasi and Kendrick brought Jazz back into the fold through their collaboration on ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ – speaking about Kendrick’s impact, Kamasi says ‘What Kendrick Lamar did, it’s opened the doors for alot of different music and for people to just open their minds to the connections that music have. It just takes one person to open peoples minds and then all of a sudden they can go out and find all these gems in music’
Washington’s sources of inspiration go through Jazz icons like Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, right into the Hip-Hop artists he channels through the way he plays the Sax. For him Snoop Dogg and of course Kendrick Lamar are his icons as well as Flying Lotus (whose label Brainfeeder released his album The Epic).
So we’re not fronting, hats off to the BBC for covering Kamasi’s launch of The Epic in May and featuring the recording of the live performance from LA’s Regent Theater in May 2015. Somehow though the commentary still seem’s out of touch with what’s happening today in music overall and what Kamasi Washington is doing goes beyond genres. Forget the commentary, if it jars to hear an oldie from Melody Maker talking about what Kamasi Washington means today.
Listening to Kamasi’s gig with screaming from fans in itself is pretty unexpected but this performance is ‘crazy’ and you need to check this out. Listen to it, savour it, imagine it live and wonder at the magnitude of Kamasi Washington. The highlight is ‘Miss Understanding’ – sounds familiar right? The band ‘Next Step’ make up a 10-piece band of fellow Los Angeles musicians including bassist/producer Thundercat and two drummers, fronted by Washington’s fearsomely energetic sax. Just get into The Epic in every sense of the word, the album itself sounds organic even when it features a 32-piece orchestra and 20-strong choir.
Kamasi is well aware of the shift and effect of the L.A beat scene and the free sound where you can play whatever style of music you want to play. Breaking down barriers is exactly what Kamasi Washington has achieved – all that we need now is the band to tour the festival circuit and hit the stages to break down those barriers even further and really show where we are now today with new music and new audiences.
Kamasi Washington Jazz on 3 is available to stream now and for a month.