“This past Monday, from the rather crowded stage of the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City, bandleader Kamasi Washington smiled widely. The saxophonist and arranger had plenty of reasons to do be happy during this, the first of four sold-out performances at the famous Greenwich Village music venue. Its storied stage having recently hosted artists like Bebel Gilberto, Bob James, and Eddie Palmieri, the club clearly made a wise choice in booking one of the year’s most talked-about jazz artists.
As Washington introduced the members of his band, most of whom performed on his ambitious three-disc album The Epic for Brainfeeder Records, audience members no doubt knew some of their names, specifically those of bassist Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner and alto sax player Terrace Martin. However, that recognition likely came due to another record, one of this year’s biggest releases at that: Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. Indeed, Washington’s own credits on the rapper’s critically acclaimed recent album are undoubtedly key to explaining the success of The Epic and his sellout run at the club, not to mention his accelerating popularity with listeners who don’t necessarily identify as jazz fans.“