“It’s hard to find unique voices in this music. Especially in jazz, more so lately, everybody is trying to do the same shit. I don’t want to hear ‘My Favorite Things’ anymore… What I am hearing is a leader among artists.”

–Flying Lotus

The Beard – EP 123 – Kamasi Washington by Beard Radio on Mixcloud

Kamasi Washington – The Epic

Kamasi Washington - The Epic

Kamasi Washington – The Epic

The Epic, the solo release from young Los Angeles jazz composer and bandleader Kamasi Washington, just out on Brainfeeder, the underground label from producer/musician Flying Lotus, completely demolishes the bar for contemporary jazz standards. Primarily in its approach:

The Epic is a 172-minute, three-volume set that features a 32-piece orchestra, a 20-person choir, and 17 songs overlaid with a compositional score written by Washington. The base ten-piece band, some of the best young musicians around all out of Los Angeles – including bassist Thundercat and his brother, drummer Ronald Bruner Jr., bassist Miles Mosley, drummer Tony Austin, keyboard player Brandon Coleman, pianist Cameron Graves, and trombonist Ryan Porter with Patrice Quinn on vocals – are often referred to as “The West Coast Get Down”.

Secondly, the band has been jamming together for years. Washington, 32, has known Bruner since he was two. The rest met in high school. The hours they have put into the music, playing together and practicing alone, total cumulatively in the tens of thousands.

This is what happens when talented youth is exposed to music from birth – a tenor saxophone jazz prodigy is born. As the apocryphal story goes, At the age of 13 Kamasi Washington picked up his father’s soprano saxophone, and even though he didn’t know anything about it, he played Wayne Shorter’s “Sleeping Dancer Sleep On”. Already well versed in the drums, piano, and clarinet it was at that moment that the saxophone became his instrument of choice.

Instead of playing music part time and going through the rote motions of dreary high school, Kamasi played and studied at the prestigious Hamilton High School Music Academy, forming his first band with childhood friends Ronald and Stephen Bruner on drums and bass, along with pianist Cameron Graves, called “The Young Jazz Giants”. His education continued as Kamasi went on to study Ethnomusicology at UCLA, recording his first album with The Young Jazz Giants, and eventually toured with Snoop Dog. He joined The Gerald Wilson orchestra, went on his first international tour with RnB legend Raphael Saadiq, played with legendary jazz artist such as McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Burrell, and George Duke. At the same time he was working with Lauryn Hill, Jeffrey Osborne, Mos Def, and Quincy Jones. While still taking courses at UCLA. His vision of work experience is as avant garde and forward-thinking as his “Next Step” music is a modern spin on a big band, with two drummers, two bassist upright and electric, piano and keyboards, three horns and a vocalist. Recently Kamasi has been touring with legendary musicians Stanley Clarke, Harvey Mason, and Chaka Khan. He’s featured on Harvey Mason’s latest album “Chameleon”, Stanley Clarke’s latest and the last two Flying Lotus albums. The man is prolific.

Kamasi Washington - The Epic

Kamasi Washington – The Epic

The Epic Vol.1: The Plan
1. Change of the Guard 12:16
2. Askim 12:35
3. Isabelle 12:13
4. Final Thought 6:32
5. The Next Step 14:49
6. The Rhythm Changes 7:44

The Epic Vol.2: The Glorious Tale
1. Miss Understanding 8:46
2. Leroy and Lanisha 9:24
3. Re Run 8:20
4. Seven Prayers 7:36
5. Henrietta Our Hero 7:14
6. The Magnificent 7 12:46

The Epic Vol.3: The Historic Repetition
1. Re Run Home 14:06
2. Cherokee 8:14
3. Clair de Lune 11:08
4. Malcolm’s Theme 8:41
5. The Message 11:09