He’s released the best jazz album of the year, a sprawling three hour epic, appropriately titled The Epic. After an exhilarating showcase for NPR Music’s Jazz Night In America last month, Kamasi Washington is touring and makes a stop in Philly in August.
XPN Welcomes Kamasi Washington to World Cafe Live on Thursday, August 27th. Awarded Best New Music by Pitchfork, Washington’s The Epic is a work of grandeur that combines his respect for past jazz traditions with two feet firmly planted in the here and now. Washington’s name may be familiar to you if you read the credits to Kendrick Lamar’s recent To Pimp A Butterfly; Washington played saxophone and arranged and conducted the string section on the album. Washington studied ethnomusicology at UCLA, and has toured and recorded with Lauryn Hill, Mos Def, Quincy Jones, Raphael Saadiq, Snoop Dogg, Stanley Clarke and others.
Here’s a bit of what Pitchfork had to say about the album:
This triple-album set is an extravagant love letter to (among other things): soul jazz, John Coltrane (various periods), and 1970s fusion leaders like Miles Davis and Weather Report. The Epic’s Disc 1 opener, “Change of the Guard”, might as well be titled “We Love All Kinds of ‘Trane”. Its ringing opening piano chords sound almost entirely lifted from the playbook of McCoy Tyner, the pianist in Coltrane’s so-called “Classic Quartet.” (That’s the group responsible for A Love Supreme.) The opening theme in the saxes is something that could only have been written after “Impressions”. And the harmonious writing for Washington’s string section recalls posthumous Coltrane releases like Infinity—tracks from which featured orchestral overdubs supervised by Alice Coltrane (who is, as you may have read, Flying Lotus’s aunt). Toward the end of the 12-minute tune, Washington’s tenor sax solo veers off into flights of screeching intensity that were the hallmark of Coltrane’s later groups—specifically the ones that also included Pharoah Sanders.
Washington’s show at World Cafe Live has the markings of a classic in the making; tickets are on sale now here.
Below, watch Washington’s live performance for NPR Music’s Jazz Night In America.
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