Kamasi Washington is at the helm of a resurgence in a jazz movement that’s seeing the genre embraced by Millennials and jazz purists alike.
Washington’s triple album, “The Epic,” was released in 2015 on Brainfeeder Records to rave reviews from major and independent media outlets across the board. On the album, Washington — who played saxophone and arranged strings on rapper Kendrick Lamar’s instantly iconic “To Pimp a Butterfly” and was a tour saxophonist for venerable rapper Snoop Dogg — leads a 10-piece band, a 32-piece orchestra and a 20-person choir, forging a considerable pop culture following and hip-hop fan base that believe jazz is “cool” again.
“There’s a freedom in the music; a sense of endless possibilities to it,” Washington says of jazz. “The younger generations are very individualistic. They’re into being different and being themselves. Weird is the new cool.”
Washington is scheduled to play back-to-back shows on Feb. 25 at the Independent as part of the 24th Annual Noise Pop Festival. The 34-year-old Los Angeles saxophonist will be armed with an eight-piece band. Among his bandmates are drummer Ronald Bruner Jr., singer Patrice Quinn, trombone player Ryan Porter and even Washington’s father, Rickey, on saxophone.
A turning point for Kamasi Washington in his creative process and resonance with younger audiences lies in his experience as a touring band member with some notable stars. Much like saxophone player Karl Denson, who was a stalwart with Lenny Kravitz’s touring band before building his own successful touring projects in Greyboy Allstars and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Washington cut his teeth on tour with Snoop Dogg and Lauryn Hill.