There was a standing ovation for Kamasi Washington at his late-night Prom. I wish I could have felt like joining in. From my review in today’s Times:
The good news about the advent of Kamasi Washington is that here is a jazz musician who connects with his audience at an emotional level. The burly Californian saxophonist with a taste for dashikis wins over people who do not think of themselves as jazz fans. Some have discovered him through his work with the rapper Kendrick Lamar, and they are just as likely to hear him playing at a rock festival as any of the usual clubs.
Yet the hype is reaching ridiculous proportions. Critics have been drooling over the triple album The Epic, seemingly oblivious that the three-hour set, in which Washington’s group lock horns with a choir and orchestra, contains an astonishing amount of padding wrapped in Pharoah Sanders-like mysticism. (Not to mention the sort of sophomoric references to Malcolm X that seem to make some music journalists go weak at the knees.)
On the other hand, California also happens to be the source of my Sunday Times album of the week, John Beasley’s sparkling and refreshingly irreverent Monk’estra. If only it could receive a fraction of the attention lavished on Washington’s band.