Kamasi Washington at Blue Note: 25 August 2015 (Photos)

All the press raving about Kamasi Washington are correct. The tenor saxophonist's Epic performances are not to be missed.
Kamasi Washington

The first time most people will hear the name Kamasi Washington is in connection with many of the people he’s collaborated with, Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat or Flying Lotus to name a few. But Washington is more than a supporting player for these colleagues. He’s a downright monster of a musician whose first album The Epic is a three hour wild ride through jazz, fused with hip-hop, soul and other influences. His first shows in New York City were the four gigs over two nights at the famed Blue Note establishment. All the seats at the shows were sold out, but some bar spots were available before each show and as a result, the Blue Note had a line down the block, with some people waiting several hours to see Washington perform. Fortunately, I was able to get in for the 8 pm set on the second night.

When Washington took the stage, it was, as ZealNYC noted, “with a humble spirit of appreciation, saying that he was thrilled to be playing in New York for the first time—and above all at the Blue Note. After noting that the stage was a bit of a tight fit for his band (pianist/keyboardist, trombonist, vocalist, acoustic and electric basses bassists, and two powerful, sparking drummers as well as several guests to come), the tenor saxist said, “We’re going to take you on a little journey,” which as it turned out was an understatement. He launched into an epic set that clocked in at just shy of two hours—again, a treat given that set lists in all the New York clubs range from 50 to 70 minutes max.” The set began with “Changing of the Guard” a fusion tune that had me recalling (from my limited jazz knowledge) Return to Forever.

Washington’s epic band, really his musical community, included, Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner, drummers Tony Austin (also an audio engineer) and Ronald Bruner (they met when he was three years old), Ryan Porter on trombone, vocalist Patrice Quinn (one of his favorite singers), Miles Mosley on bass and at times, Igmar Thomas on trumpet, Terence Martin on alto saxo and for the finale, Washington’s father, Rickey Washington on soprano sax. And Washington gave each and every one of them a chance to shine whether it be through a solo or through one of their own numbers. Mosley’s impressive solo (one of his own songs) was a tremendous demonstration of what one person can draw from the bass as he deftly produced sounds I would have thought required looping pedals (Washington preempted him to say there are no buttons or motors on it and it’s made out of standard wood). Quinn got to shine on jazz standard “Cherokee”, one of the tracks on The Epic. And as his son stepped aside, Rickey Washington stood center stage to perform “Malcolm’s Theme”. Washington graciously thanked the crowd for coming out as he laughingly plugged the tank tops and t-shirts he had available for sale upstairs. There wasn’t much time before he had to do it all again for the 10:30 show. Fortunately for those who missed him, Washington is returning to New York in October (tour dates below). I’ve already got my tickets — his show was truly one of the best performance I’ve seen.

Kamasi Washington Tour Dates:

Sep 09 Bottom Lounge Chicago, IL

Sep 10 ICEHOUSE Minneapolis, MN

Sep 11 Slowdown Omaha, NE

Sep 13 Soda Bar San Diego, CA

Sep 16 Smith Center Las Vegas, NV

Sep 18 Harlow’s Sacramento, CA

Sep 19 The Warfield San Francisco, CA

Sep 24 Boulder Theater Boulder, CO

Sep 25 The State Room Salt Lake City, UT

Oct 15 BRIC HOUSE Brooklyn, NY

Oct 16 le poisson rouge New York, NY

Oct 24 SoulFest Sydney, Australia

Oct 25 SoulFest Melbourne, Australia

Oct 26 SoulFest Auckland, New Zealand

Nov 04 Bird Rotterdam, Netherlands

Nov 05 Bitterzoet Amsterdam, Netherlands

Nov 06 Gruenspan Hamburg, Germany

Nov 07 So What’s Next Festival Eindhoven, Netherlands

Nov 08 Kulturzentrum dasHaus Ludwigshafen Am Rhein, Germany

Nov 09 Locomotiv Bologna, Italy

Nov 10 Monk Club Rome, Italy

Nov 11 Tunnel Club Milano, Italy

Nov 13 The Lantern Bristol, United Kingdom

Nov 14 Barbican Theatre London, United Kingdom

Nov 15 Le Trabendo Paris, France

Nov 16 AB Club Brussels, Belgium

Nov 17 Club Bahnhof Ehrenfeld Cologne, Germany

Nov 18 Unterfahrt Munich, Germany

Nov 21 Le Guess Who Festival Utrecht, Netherlands

Nov 22 Neue Heimat Berlin, Germany

Nov 23 DR Koncerthuset København S, Denmark

Nov 24 Nasjonal Jazzscene Oslo, Norway

Nov 25 Fasching Stockholm, Sweden

Nov 26 Nefertiti Gothenburg, Sweden

Nov 27 Folken Stavanger, Norway

Nov 28 Verftet Bergen, Norway

Nov 30 THE CIRCUS Helsinki, Finland

Dec 10 Club Nokia Los Angeles, CA