Kamasi Washington at QMU, 27/6/16

Kamasi Washington and The Next Step band play the QMU as part of the Glasgow Jazz Festival; it’s the best way to spend a Monday evening and it appears many others agree with that sentiment.

I’ve been looking forwards this since his debut triple album was released last year on Flying Lotus’ Brain Feeder label, in a busy year that also saw Washington appear on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly.

The latter may have brought a large amount of attention to The Epic, which can be said has an appeal beyond the normal jazz album.

Since vinyl reissues have went into fifth gear and the searching the spiritual aspect of 20th century music, artists like Washington are revealing themselves to be the torch bearers in the tradition of the greats (Monk, Coltrane etc.); artists who spoke beyond the genre.

The first tune introduced is ‘Change of the Guard’, which opens volume one of The Epic, The Plan.

‘Next Step’ follows with an outstanding acoustic bass solo, played by Miles Mosley, the mix of finger and bow with added wah-wah creates an explosive solo that leaps out of the instrument as charged as a bassline that would come out of a laptop.

Followed by this the patter from Washington, which continues throughout the set; thankful of the energy in the room he introduces and gives a personal background of his fellow band members.

On the whole his chat is as pleasant and entertaining as his sax playing, always funny, however the most touching moment is when he speaks of the influence of his father, Rickey Washington, who remains on stage and plays clarinet on ‘Rerun’.

The double drummer line up grabs the audience, alongside the furious speed of the wah-funk fusion in the style of Miles On the Corner.

Vocals became more prominent at this stage, having been low in the mix at the start of the set.

At this point Washington informs us that during the recording of The Epic the band members on stage recorded eight albums; Washington has said to Jazz Wise magazine recently that if The Epic has any impact or purpose he hopes that it will highlight the other musicians featured.

The man on keyboards, Brandon Coleman or Professor Boogie, tonight has the band play his tune ‘Giant Feelings’; with vocoder vocals, keytar, G-funk bassline with a hard groove the variety on the eight albums must be insane and surely in the years to come The Epic/Butterfly sessions will become the stuff of legend.

The funk is put front and centre during the keyboard solos with the horns take on a classic James Brown role.

The two-drummer line up is made of Tony Austin and Ronald Bruner Jr., the latter appeared on Marcus Miller’s Tutu Revisited tour.

That album Tutu itself is becoming a touch point for this generation of jazz in terms of approach and production, and tonight the drummer duel is a violent display of chops showcasing lightning fast fills that fall into smooth grooves.

‘The Rhythm Changes’ closes the set and Washington asks where to get a drink of whisky after he is finished at the merch table.

Stellar musicianship all over the stage, the interaction and fluidity of the band responding to each other is less like a conversation and more like an in-depth musical discussion between all seven members.

All this puts front and centre the warm personality and gifted musical talents of the bandleader.

Words: Paul Choi

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