Radically rewriting jazz for the 21st century: Brainfeeder’s sax virtuoso reflects on his South Central-bred, cosmic-minded sound.
Kamasi Washington is radically reshaping the role of the jazz musician in the 21st century. Growing up in southern Los Angeles, Washington soaked up the gangsta rap of N.W.A. and had a keen ear for Bach, while learning the saxophone at the prestigious Academy of Music at Hamilton High School. Along with his West Coast Get Down collective (which includes Stephen Thundercat Bruner and his brother, Ronald Bruner Jr., among others), Washington is dusting off the tradition of spiritually inclined post-bop and fusion, and bringing it to a new generation by way of Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label. Fresh off the release of his aptly titled debut album, The Epic, a record so brimming with ideas it combines the small-room immediacy of be-bop with Sun Ra’s cosmic escapism and choir-backed, near-operatic passages, Washington is taking his “New Los Angeles Sound” around the globe.