One of the undisputed stars of 2015, jazz virtuoso Kamasi Washington was a mainstay in albums of the year lists last year, as trend setters scrambled over one another to bestow their highest praise upon his appropriately named masterpiece The Epic. The Californian saxophonist has been a key figure in the recent resurgence of jazz in popular music, and will take to the stage at the O2 Institute2 on the 29th June to give Birmingham a taste of his weighty talent.
Not content with taking plaudits all for himself, Washington’s sax-manship has also been heard on some of the other albums to assume legendary status over recent years, in particular Flying Lotus’ You’re Dead and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. The beneficiary of a musically talented family, Washington has mastered his craft through years of study and performances alongside a broad range of musicians, including George Duke and Herbie Hancock, Nas and Snoop Dogg.
Bringing The Epic to life in performances across the world, Washington has demonstrated that his compositions are just as powerful live as they are on record, earning rave reviews for his debut at New York’s Blue Note in particular, on a night where the band welcomed a cameo from long time friend and collaborator Thundercat. Having played together for years - since childhood for many of Washington’s musical accomplices - the band have electric chemistry, bound together with atomic precision which allows their blazing instrumentals to retain an element of control amidst the chaos of back-and-forth solos and soaring harmonies.
The performance in Birmingham is likely to be a true spectacle for the city’s live music scene, and jazz fanatics will appreciate the opportunity to see a future legend of the genre as he nears his triumphant peak. Just as The Epic must surely be considered essential listening, Kamasi Washington at O2 Institute constitutes an unmissable evening out this summer.
Words by Andrew Kemp
Photos courtesy of Kamasi Washington