Kamasi Washington’s sax player is epic

Most likely you’ve already heard saxophonist Kamasi Washington.

His tenor saxophone is featured all over Kendrick Lamar’s now infamous 2015 record, “To Pimp A Butterfly.”

But jazz fans all over the world are intrigued by Washington’s compositions now.

kamasi washingtonTwo months after “To Pimp a Butterfly” came out, Kamasi dropped a three hour long record that is a compositional masterpiece.

“The Epic” is a declaration, a bright banner that states what Washington and other L.A. jazz artists have been saying— jazz is alive, exciting, and relevant in today’s world.

The record features Kamasi and his 10 piece band, a full choir, and a string orchestra.

Washington said in an interview with Tavis Smiley that he recorded the entire album in 30 days in a studio he rented with three of his friends, all jazz players and friends since childhood.

Not only did they record “The Epic” in its entirety, they recorded eight other projects that the musicians were working on.

Nothing about “The Epic” feels like a jazz standard. Every line and lick is a tantalizingly fresh thought.

The song that just can’t get out of my head is “Henrietta Our Hero,” which is a tribute to Washington’s grandmother.

The song opens to vocalist Patrice Quinn, whose warm voice brings to light the eternal matriarch she sings of. “Henrietta Our Hero” is the stunning anthem to a woman with “a power so deep inside/brings life to us all.”

The song builds into a full choir, band, and orchestra incantation of the power Washington’s grandmother, and jazz itself, holds.

Washington is no new face to jazz. He has played and recorded with multi-genre greats such as Gerald Wilson, McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Burrell, George Duke, Lauryn Hill, Jeffrey Osborne, Mos Def, Quincy Jones, Stanley Clark, Harvey Mason, Flying Lotus, and Chaka Khan.

A powerful live performance of “The Epic” performed at Regent Theater in Downtown Los Angeles was filmed for “Jazz Night in America” and can be found at https://youtu.be/0YbPSIXQ4q4.

Leave comment