Saxophonist Kamasi Washington first exploded into the pop culture conversation in the mid-2010s, turning heads…
Saxophonist Kamasi Washington first exploded into the pop culture conversation in the mid-2010s, turning heads and garnering massive acclaim for his contributions to Kendrick Lamar's Grammy-winning hip-hop album To Pimp a Butterfly. And when his own debut album, 2015's The Epic, arrived like a comet on the jazz scene, it landed with an impact that continues to reverberate to this day. With all the mysticism of a cosmic visitor, Washington introduced the world to an exhilarating jazz-rock style that he and a cohort of other L.A.-based musicians had been cultivating for decades. In its unmistakable freshness and sly sense of defiance, it felt like the dawning of a new movement in jazz. And Washington, with his Afrofuturist outlook and sci-fi aesthetic, emerged as its figurehead. No surprise that he soon was drawing comparisons to John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix.
Listening audiences were only too eager to receive his message, and Washington's continued success as a touring and recording artist testifies not just to his colossal talent but to his broad, cross-generational appeal. The Epic and subsequent albums like Harmony of Difference and Heaven and Earth, have earned accolades from critics and fans on all sides of the musical spectrum, topping pop and jazz charts in countries around the world. He's also become a perennial sight at festivals ranging from Newport to Coachella. And while his music may well represent the next chapter in jazz, he's been embraced with open arms by the genre's original innovators. Later this year, he'll be joining forces with another titan of jazz-rock fusion: Herbie Hancock. The duo recently announced a batch of co-headlined tours throughout the U.S. this summer.
This playlist is designed to give you a taste of what Kamasi Washington has to offer. Rather than a comprehensive guide, it functions as a portal to his endlessly fascinating world, which extends outward to artists like Terrace Martin, Cameron Graves, Miles Mosley, Ronald Bruner, Ghost-Note and many others. Kamasi is jazz's closest thing to a rockstar at the moment. Enjoy getting to know him.