An Epic Journey With Jazz Great in the Making, Kamasi Washington

The debut single from the Brainfeeder saxman proves that you need to #listentomorejazz
By    March 11, 2015


You already know the adage: listen to more jazz. But when you’re listening to more jazz, it can get a little depressing to consider that you’re listening to nothing made after the last time Miles donned a Tutu. Sure, there’s Robert Glasper, perpetual winner of the Buckshot Lefonque Legacy Award.  Thundercat owns the constellations encompassing jazz fusion, taking George Duke’s soul on a journey through the cosmos, settling at the TDE studios in Carson. Madlib’s due to come back like a comet with his latest fictional modal quartet. Flying Lotus is smoking L’s with Herbie Hancock.

Jazz is theoretically in the best place it’s been since Guru christened an entire series of records to rhyme with “Razzmatazz” (it was the 90s). But sometimes when you’re listening to more jazz, you want to hear the genuine article. You wonder what it would sound like if the needle stopped skipping. If the grooves got weirder and deeper and minds got scrambled into the binary omelet of the Internet era. You want to hear something like Kamasi Washington — not a post-modern approximation of what jazz would sound like, but jazz. No hashtag necessary.


Raised in South Central and Inglewood, the 33-year old Washington studied at the prestigious Hamilton High Music Academy, which spawned everyone from Baths to the jerkin’ kids to The Internet. But he also bears the pedigree of Reggie Andrews, the venerable Locke High educator who also brought you the Pharcyde (it was his record collection from which J-Swift pillaged the Quincy Jones record that became “Passing Me By.”) Washington has been gigging around town for years, often accompanied by the Bruner brothers on bass and drums. Their live sets are already something of legend.

His official Brainfeeder debut, fittingly titled, The Epic, finally arrives in May. The first single, “Re Run Home” is here and enduring proof that jazz can still thrive. More evidence that music’s progression can run parallel to what’s considered hot or relevant. Music is about meaning and mutations, not about buzz or the right borough. And this is 14 minutes of wandering supernaturally lit grooves.

You can hear the echoes of Coltrane and Mulatu, Albert Ayler at his most alien, Fela at his most funky, and the gone but not forgotten spirit of Austin Peralta. It’s ten young virtuosic players unshackled but deadly focused — Washington’s sax solos cutting through, winding up, and running over the top of the beat like a track star turned rapper. This is jazz with all the exclamation marks it used to elicit. Listen to the beat build.

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