Is jazz going to save the world?
For the first time in the 21st Century, a contemporary jazz musician is filling medium-to-large venues with a young, non-jazz-specific audience. One glance around Manchester’s fabulous Albert Hall tonight confirms that it is spilling over not with a specialised group of bespoke connoisseurs, but with the typical clientele one finds on the alternative live music circuit.
That Kamasi Washington has been able to reach this demographic with his head-spinning space music speaks on the one hand to his impeccable connections in the music industry (he string-arranged Kendrick’s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ and has worked serially with Thundercat and Flying Lotus); but it also suggests that this form of music, perhaps once considered dusty and passé, is in actual fact teaming with life, and may even hold the key to unlocking the 2018 malaise.
For a high planes drifter like Washington, his first album, 2015’s three hour masterpiece ‘The Epic’, was a stunning introduction to a complex mind. However, given that the intervening three years have seen the world become increasingly harsh, it is no surprise that an artist capable of conjuring such metaphysically uplifting and mystifying music would arrive at a headspace that squarely confronts the difficult co-existence of his spiritual consciousness with the modern hard reality. That’s what’s on its way on June 22 when Washington releases his second album, ‘Heaven and Earth’.