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PHOTOS: Kamasi Washington and Sun Ra Arkestra at Union Transfer

Kamasi Washington | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren for WXPN

Union Transfer was packed to the rafters Saturday night when West Coast jazz visionary Kamasi Washington headlined with his octet. Touring in support of this year’s EP Harmony of Difference, Washington got to share the stage with the Sun Ra Arkestra, the storied Philly ensemble carrying the legacy of an artist pivotal to Washington’s own musical development. Check out a gallery of photo from the show below, and read more about Washington in this interview with The Key’s Alex Smith.   Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Kamasi Washington at Union Transfer, Soraia at MilkBoy, Secret American At Johnny Brenda’s, and more

Kamasi Washington
Kamasi Washington | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Following the release of his latest EP Harmony of Difference in September, Los Angeles-based jazz master Kamasi Washington brings his saxophone-driven tunes to Union Transfer tonight. Philly’s own Sun Ra Arkestra opens the show. Read The Key’s interview with Washington here, listen to “Truth” off the new EP below and find tickets and more information on the XPN Concert Calendar.  Continue reading →

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The Power of the People: Kamasi Washington on artistic freedom and intellectual expansion

Kamasi Washington
Kamasi Washington | photo courtesy of the artist

If you listen to current jazz and its proponents, you’d think the landscape would be wrought with dark cynicism, mired in the sometimes tenuous relationship that jazz, in an attempt to stay in the millennial zeitgeist, has had to build with scenes like noise or experimental music. Scenes where a bleaker outlook is fostered at the expense of spiritual liberation.

Enter Kamasi Washington, a beacon in the modern iteration of jazz and avant garde music. He exists as a portal to another time where African dashikis and proud Nubian brothers holding spears atop wicker chairs, or black astral travelers conjuring up sounds rocking “spiritual tuning fork as headdress,” were the norm. With his band locked in with the force of a hadron collider and bursting with kaleidoscopic vision, the native Los Angeleno manages to bring together genres seamlessly with two highly acclaimed albums– 2015’s The Epic and this fall’s Harmony of Difference. While he has enough room in his heart for both Art Blakey and Grover Washington, both Wayne Shorter and George Benson, the key to this grand synthesis of sound, where orchestral moments like Epic‘s opening track “Change of the Guard” lift through the atmosphere only to descend gracefully, tapering out with an effortless cool that evokes a hungry Miles Davis, is simple: it’s in the power of the people. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Sheer Mag at PhilaMOCA, Kamasi Washington at Musikfest Cafe, Emmett Drueding at Kung Fu Necktie, and more…

Sheer Mag | Photo by John Vettese
Sheer Mag | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Philly punk powerhouses Sheer Mag just released their kickass EP III last month, and they will be performing tonight at PhilaMOCA for the Philadelphia Student Union Fundraiser. Also playing will be Bad Canoes and Dark Thoughts. For tickets and more information, check out the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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Kamasi Washington brings The Epic to life at World Cafe Live

Kamasi Washington | Photo by John Vettese
Kamasi Washington | Photo by John Vettese

Saxophonist/composer Kamasi Washington brought an 8-piece version of the West Coast Get Down to World Café Live on Thursday as part of his first east coast excursion in support of his attention-grabbing debut The Epic. Even stripped of the orchestra and choir, his band lives up to that album title. Both roof-raising showmen and envelope-pushing adventurers, Washington and company delivered on the converging promises of George Clinton’s Afro-futurist funk and the boundary-obliterating jazz reinventions of late Coltrane and electric Miles. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Kamasi Washington at World Cafe Live, Meg Baird at Johnny Brenda’s, Set and Setting at Kung Fu Necktie

Kamasi Washington | Photo by Mike Park | courtesy of the artist
Kamasi Washington | Photo by Mike Park | courtesy of the artist

Tonight, LA saxophonist and acclaimed band leader Kamasi Washington brings his aptly-titled debut LP The Epic to World Cafe Live with an eight-piece band. In an interview earlier this week with The Key’s Shaun Brady, Washington talked about breaking down the boundaries of genre:

The word ‘jazz’ and the word ‘hip-hop’ have a separation, but the music doesn’t really have that same separation. You can’t talk about hip-hop without talking about A Tribe Called Quest, and their music is inundated with jazz. You can’t talk about west coast hip-hop without talking about James Brown and Parliament.

Read the whole interview here, listen to “Miss Understanding” below and get tickets and more information on the show via the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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Interview: Kamasi Washington on breaking down the boundaries of jazz with The Epic

Kamasi Washington | Photo by Mike Park | courtesy of the artist
Kamasi Washington | Photo by Mike Park | courtesy of the artist

“West Coast Jazz” means something very specific to most listeners – cool, intellectual, played by guys in short sleeves and horn-rimmed glasses whose calmer brand of hip evoked a more laid-back atmosphere than the frantic pace of New York City. It’s an image, as that description implies, that’s not only reductive but locked in the 1950s, reflecting the eclipsing effect that New York has on other areas of the jazz landscape.

With the release of The Epic, Kamasi Washington explodes that image with the force of a supernova. The saxophonist/composer’s sprawling, monumental three-disc debut is an ambitious Afro-futurist opus that swirls in elements of jazz, funk, hip-hop, electronica and soul, as well as a 32-piece orchestra and 20-person choir supplementing the adventurous sound of his core ten-piece band. That band consists of fellow members of a collective known alternately as The West Coast Get Down or The Next Step, a group of like-minded, genre-leaping artists who grew up together in the Leimert Park section of South Central Los Angeles. Their combined efforts suggest something transformational happening in the incubator of the L.A. music scene. Continue reading →

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Philly saxophonist Steve Davit of Marian Hill steps out on his debut single “Forward”

Steve Davit | Courtesy of the artist

“Imagine Kamasi Washington met Snarky Puppy at a party, got drunk and recorded some funky jams. Then I came along and chopped it all up.” Saxophonist Steve Davit emailed us this description of his debut single as a solo artist, released today, and it holds up. “Forward” is a guaranteed mood-boosting and body-warming sonic gift wrapped up and delivered in three minutes of groovy beats and smooth sax. Continue reading →