Kamasi Washington will visit The Majestic in Madison on Wednesday, November 8th, in support of his new album Harmony of Difference. It’s unclear if members of the West Coast Get Down will be touring alongside Washington, though listeners can rest assured that he can hold his own regardless of his company.
During its genesis in the 1950s, the Los Angeles jazz scene was viewed by some as a mere afterthought in comparison to heavy hitters like Chicago, New Orleans and New York City. The chaotic “hard bop” style of the East Coast was dominant, while the “cool” and more free-flowing arrangements of the West Coast scene were quietly building a following in its shadow.
Fast forward to today, and Kamasi Washington and his collective The West Coast Get Down are putting LA back on the jazz map in a big way. Some might say they’re making jazz cool again, and that statement is due (in no small part) to Washington’s frequent collaborations with a wide range of modern hip-hop, funk, and soul artists.
An alum of UCLA’s School of Ethnomusicology, Washington has racked up guest credits with Nas, Lauryn Hill, Snoop Dogg, Flying Lotus, Thundercat, and many others. Most notably, Washington contributed his tenor saxophone chops to rapper Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 album To Pimp a Butterfly. Washington also contributed saxophone to the 2016 Run The Jewels Track “Thursday in the Danger Room”, from the album RTJ3.
“Instead of a self-conscious attempt to seize someone else’s idea of the zeitgeist, it’s a large and generous canvas, clearly created in the hopes of attracting new visitors to the post-Coltrane wing of the jazz museum.”
-Pitchfork, on their review of The Epic
Washington’s debut solo album The Epic was released in May of 2015 to much acclaim, and its personnel of instrumentalists make up a good chunk of what’s known as The West Coast Get Down, the Los Angeles-based collective being widely credited for the current jazz/jazz fusion revival.The Epic features a chaotic yet sublime amalgam of trumpet, trombone, piano, percussion, and of course, Washington’s signature tenor saxophone groove. The album is a perfect example of how modern jazz is as shamelessly skillful and chop-laden as it is accessible – something that the genre has famously lacked in previous generations. Perhaps this is the reason the current revival is resonating among younger crowds, something which Washington and crew are no doubt thankful for.
“As a composer and musician, he suffuses his work with the sounds of his influences while breathing new energy and relevancy into their styles. On Harmony of Difference, Washington’s work remains as substantial and compelling as ever.”
-Paste Magazine, on their review of Harmony of Difference
The jazz trendsetter’s latest effort, Harmony of Difference, was released on September 22nd of this year, and it celebrates diversity by way of contrasting melodic lines that somehow – perhaps by that signature LA jazz magic – work together very well. Each track is a showcase of a different instrument, with the bombastic ‘Humility’ letting Washington show his chops and the sublime ‘Truth’ boasting a wide range of percussion and choir attitudes. And although some instruments stand out more than others, they all tend to come together very smoothly track after track, which makes the EP’s title all the more fitting. The name Harmony of Difference may also, unsurprisingly, be interpreted as a plea for unity in what are undoubtedly volatile social times. At any rate, it’s a lively and vivacious effort from a group of burgeoning talents that are, thankfully, just getting started.
Check him out!
Kamasi Washington will be at The Majestic on September 8th. Doors open at 7:30pm.