Virtuoso saxophonist Kamasi Washington is part of a new wave of musicians finding acclaim among audiences and critics outside the world of jazz and working with major international artists. He contributed to Kendrick Lamar’s astounding albums To Pimp a Butterfly and Damn, for example.
Washington’s breakout album The Epic is most certainly that; it features three discs and more than 170 minutes of celestial, synapse-unwinding jazz explorations. The album’s got the bombast to blow Zeus straight off the top of Mount Olympus. Last year Washington released the acclaimed follow-up album Heaven and Earth – a two-disc collection that represents Washington’s inner and outer worlds.
For all his talents, the jazz cognoscenti in New York are at times dismissive of the LA-based Washington, claiming his sound is too indebted to the past, and too populist to create something new. But it’s artists like Washington that are bringing new fans to a genre that is so often exclusive and unapproachable. And he’s having a damn good time doing it.
Kamasi Washington is playing at Hamer Hall as part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival.