“The pundits have told us for a generation that jazz is dead. It’s the music of an aging, middle-class audience, they’ve said, best curated for and conserved in staid, artificial cathedrals, like Jazz at Lincoln Center.
But when an 11-year-old Kamasi Washington explored a mixtape of Lee Morgan and Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, he had little idea who Wynton Marsalis was. What Washington knew, though, was that the music spoke to him, just as the sounds of Snoop Dogg later would when he began touring as the iconic rapper’s saxophonist. To him, it felt alive.
Now in his early 30s, Washington is a key part of a Los Angeles vanguard that includes Thundercat, Flying Lotus and, most famously, the rapper Kendrick Lamar, whose To Pimp a Butterfly Washington lent a significant hand. Washington parlayed those experiences and friendships into the three-volume, 17-song album The Epic. It’s the by-product of a truly epic session with his crew, West Coast Get Down, which yielded nearly 200 songs.“