May 18, 2024

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Kamasi Washington’s success says about the general state of jazz music: Video

Some wonder what Kamasi’s success says about the general state of jazz music. Well, he shows that jazz is dead only until that one comes, bringing it back to life. However, Washington can only do that for its own music. A meeting with a giant who comes down from the upper plateau to talk to people playing saxophone.

Can we talk openly? Anyone who feels at home in pop, even on the same floor, is probably even closer to Indonesian gamelan clapping than jazz. Those who really enjoy jazz, are almost lost to all other genres. On the one hand, it is surrounded by the smell of the original, archaic. We suspect that pop also uses ideas from its gigantic treasuries. On the other hand, he is surrounded by the aura of the high-cultural, canonical. We swear that in jazz we have to deal with a massif of countless peaks and even more valleys and side valleys, in which one can easily get lost.

Jazz is what the music teacher hears after a lesson with a “good glass of red wine” for relaxation. If it’s not classics from the archive, then it’s Wynton Marsalis with his heritage preservation – not Brother Branford with lapses in the pop. As we do so, our teacher flips through the program from the previous Moers Festival, listening to other talented white-haired men from a talented clarinet player from Uelzen and then discussing when Miles Davis was better – playing with Wayne Shorter or John Coltrane? Every now and then, the aging audience will be greeted with patronizing words by the youngsters, “young jazz musicians”, who are then called Natalia Mateo and singing in a well-trained voice, singing “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday. Or they are called Till Brönner, they also get gray temples at some point and interpret Moers with a stopped trumpet very “smooth” Chet Baker.

Of course, it is unjust to judge a high mountain range for its most popular climatic health resorts. But even professional climbers who can distinguish Dixieland from Ragtime and Post-Bop from Cool-Jazz, see the genre at the latest in / since the 80s at the end. Jazz has long lost its role as a source of inspiration and has become a niche culture among many. Since then, the heritage has been managed, taught, cataloged, celebrated. The music played elsewhere. Until the morning of May 5, 2015, when the record shops opened. There he was suddenly again, the jazz. An explosion of creativity, an emotional maelstrom. For almost three hours, seemingly out of nowhere, as if he had never been gone, epic – and people were listening, they suddenly stopped listening and were blown away. That was THE EPIC.

Kamasi Washington is 37 years old and walks on the stick. The hip. Two years ago, the heavy man in Helsinki slipped on a damp cobblestones, and since then it does not get better. Since then the stick with shovel handle, rather a commander’s staff with West African carvings. It blends in perfectly with the other accessories that make kamasi an appearance between Questlove and Sun Ra. Around the neck dangle several chains with amulets on each other, bracelets made of wooden balls, on each finger flashes another ring, in silver tufted turquoise. He dresses colorfully in flowing garments from Senegal called Dashiki. The whole output is a thunderstorm, it calls Africa! Black Panther! Mothership! – and is only a defense magic.

“Look at me! I am a big black man. Big black men have something threatening in the US, “he states mildly, without having to add” for whites, “” for cops, “or” for white cops. ” You already understand what he means. “I think these clothes are cool. That’s why I wear it, not a jogging suit, though it’s okay. But if I do something eccentric, then that has the nice effect that no one is afraid of me. I do not look more like coming out of the ghetto. ”

This also applies to his music on many levels. THE EPIC overwhelmed with extravagance without frightening. The album did not deny its origins in the ghetto. On the contrary. And suddenly it was cool to hear jazz again. Suddenly, after three own albums without a label contract and tens of appearances with Throttle Elevator Music and the Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Washington was a household name only to insiders from the West Coast scene, among the top ten jazz on Billboard and iTunes. Surrounded by dead people like Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra or Dave Brubeck.

At the beginning this may have been a misunderstanding. Happy timing. Washington had contributed to TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY by Kendrick Lamar, perhaps the best hip hop record of the century. He co-directed the tenor saxophone in “u” and arranged the strings for “Mortal Man”. “Usually the artists say what they want and let me do it. Not here. Kendrick always sat there and asked how and why I did it this way and not otherwise, “he recalls.” He did not just invite the best people. He also allowed them to do their best. ”
With the “best people” Washington means not least his collective, whose members have grown up largely on his side in Inglewood, Los Angeles, and accompany him on a world tour: West Coast Get Down. Drummer Tony Austin (Erykah Badu, Carlos Santana), bassist Stephen Lee Bruner aka undercat (Flying Lotus, Suicidal Tendencies and soon: Herbie Hancock) and Miles Mosley (Chris Cornell, Kenny Loggins, also Kendrick Lamar) are among this intimidatingly diverse and virtuoso ensemble ), who his first name – who else? – thanks to the admiration of his parents for Miles Davis.

The Big Bang of the West Coast Get Down was a concert in 1997, when music teacher Reggie Andrews enrolled his protégés at the traditional “Playboy Jazz Fest.” As part of an educational program designed to give young people a perspective beyond the gang culture, they had practiced enough to succeed on the stage. A key experience for Washington: “There on stage, I decided to never be mediocre. There, in front of 10,000 people, I swore I really, really, really want to become a musician. ”

The only – and far more comfortable – alternative to perpetual rehearsals, to learning and mastering an instrument, the hip-hop, was sustainably contaminated at the time. Only recently was Death Row Records due to the departure of dr. Dre had finally been doomed, the bloody war between East Coast and West Coast had found its Peace of Westphalia, many of its protagonists were either underground or in jail. While the streets of South Central and Inglewood were still controlled by gangs, Reggie Andrews’s students gathered in the garage of Rickey Washington, Kamasis’s father.

Story. Rickey Washington is a musician himself, playing with Diana Ross and the Temptations, but he dropped his big career to be a better father to his son than he did. He gave him plenty of jazz, especially John Coltrane. But Kamasi, like everyone else, wanted to become a hip-hop and “gangster”, “the biggest gangster of all,” as he says today.

Not only his talent, but also his first name he owes to the father – a misunderstanding. On a trip to Ghana, Rickey Washington was so warmly welcomed in Kumasi, the Ghanaian capital of the Ashanti tribes, that he named his son after her, but he misunderstood the name Kamasi. At concerts, Rickey is the old man at the T-shirt booth, who is invited to the stage at the end.

“Until I was eleven years old, jazz did not interest me at all,” says Kamasi. He preferred to play “Street Fighter” with his friend Miles Mosley. “Then a friend of my brother gave me a tape with Art Blakey and Lee Morgan as trumpeter. Then suddenly I understood the music that had surrounded me so far. “At the age of 13, he decided to become a musician. And after he had passed his father’s test to sing a solo by Charlie Parker, he got his first sop by Conn. Additional information: Today Kamasi blows mainly on a Selmer Mark VI with a mouthpiece from Berg Larsen.

Even in the past, rehearsing had never been a bother for him. “It has always been a journey of discovery. Practicing patterns, connecting patterns, that was like alchemy. I played with the music, and when I came to, five hours had already passed. When you learn, you will eventually come to the first plateau where there is much to discover. At some point, you researched everything there. Then you have to grow, reach the next plateau. It’s getting steeper and harder, and at some point, it’s all about growing as a person. As a human. With undercat and Miles Mosley, two members of the West Coast Get Down have now released their own acclaimed albums, ranging from funk to soul. A wild robbery here, sometimes there. But not jazz in the true sense. He remains the master reserved, Pontifex Kamasi the first. The bridges he builds are taken by others. His own music is the pure stuff. Unstretched.

Not unlikely that the devoted audience of Kendrick Lamar THE EPIC initially held for an instrumental, albeit surprisingly detailed spin-off of … BUTTERFLY and therefore bought. “Yeah!” – Washington smiles to himself: “And before they knew it, they crouched there and listened, maybe for the first time in their lives, three hours of pure jazz! Most modern music is based on tiny loops. That’s okay, only this flower fades after three minutes at the latest. For me, a loop can take five minutes.

THE EPIC would be a Trojan horse, with which the genre has once again become the focus of attention – and the record cabinets of hipsters whose prototypes were the jazz-crazy “White Negroes”, as the writer Norman Mailer called them in 1957. Whereby modern hipsters have already been able to hear quite a bit of hip-hop in decorated jazz by Medeski, Martin & Wood and, if they prefer traditional music, a living legend like Sonny Rollins. But no, it needed the californian colossus. There is not even the slightest trace of hip-hop on THE EPIC, including the tiniest references to Washington’s friend Steven Ellison aka Flying Lotus or other electronic acts on his label Brainfeeder. Washington ponders the rap for a while: “I did not have any songs that demanded it yet. I respect the art form and I like to hear it. For a song, I even thought about it. But well. The music has not taken me where it would need a rap. Maybe next time.”

And yet it was hip-hop where Washington and his friends got their finishing touches: “When I worked with Snoop Dogg, I realized that jazz is like a telescope. You have everything in view, everything is possible. Hip-hop, on the other hand, is like a microscope. There you have to find the universe on a small scale. It was all about how something is played. That it’s the right note. This has changed my work on jazz, which is endless and wide and overflowing. Suddenly, I paid attention to the microscopic. Then music becomes three-dimensional, then it’s about the flow. And then I let the ideas grow. It’s like watering trees and seeing what they want to become. “And maybe it’s just this flow that makes the music of Washington so special. THE EPIC was only the beginning. The EP “Harmony Of Difference” continued in 2017. And the new double album HEAVEN AND EARTH spins the thread into a fabric whose warmth sets the music apart from its peers. Why does Washington succeed in failing to achieve comparable artists like Jeremy Pelt or Marquis Hill? What does he have, what his colleagues from the subsidized universities, but also from the smoky clubs from Tokyo to New York do not have? Why does he touch one?

The key is man himself. Not because Washington is the messiah he is celebrated in many places. Not even because he would somehow “play better”, whatever that meant. But because with him art and personality come to cover. His music sounds like the guy is. It is rooted in the ground of the past and has its head in the clouds, its actual element is becoming. At the same time, he incorporates pop cultural influences from computer games to films from the 1960s as sustainably into jazz as Hinduism did with immigrated gods – until they are fully absorbed in it. Music and people have weight, accessories from all over the world and all cultures are in their difference but to a whole.

Washington even talks about how he plays saxophone. If you ask him a question, he does not answer flush. But as lavish and voluptuous and outrageous and honest as his music. A play with motifs, erratic, sometimes confused and contradictory, dissonant until the loss of the red thread, seeking, meandering, reversing other motives, testing, dropping again until he finds his way back to the melody, condensing it, transcending it.

Pure Jazz, unabridged: “The first record, EARTH, starts with a sample from my favorite Bruce Lee movie, because that’s really the way I perceive life as an endless fight. Struggle. Not suffering, but struggle. I am constantly struggling with something, problems, obstacles. And then I see something, let it be trees: they fight too. To light! And the birds fight for their territories. It’s all about this. I wanted to have recognized this in these sounds, because they are very combative. Once you realize it’s a fight, you do not have to suffer anymore. Fight is life.

That’s Fists Of Fury. After I understood that, I wrote another song, which became ‘The Space Travelers Lullaby’, from which HEAVEN’s entry was born. There we were somewhere in northern Germany on tour, a remote area, the bus stopped and I got out, and there were these stars in the sky. So damn many stars! The Milky Way! In L. A. there are at most two stars to see. It was like looking straight into the universe. An overwhelming impression of endless possibilities. I had never thought of putting these two songs in a relationship. But music is often smarter than its author. And I heard: Reality is why I perceive the world like an endless struggle. Because I imagine the world as a place of endless possibilities. Conversely, I feel an endless struggle because there are endless possibilities. To have unlimited possibilities, you need endless struggle. That was like a revelation to me. That’s what the album should be about. EARTH is the existence, the reality. HEAVEN is the imagination, the endless possibility space. It is my hope for this album that this revelation is somehow shared. Anyone who suffers less in this world does so because he draws that power out of himself. Some people make their world a beautiful place. Where there is extreme suffering, people have transferred their special power to other people and allowed them to represent the place where they live on behalf of them.

When you look at the world from a great distance, it appears dark, full of suffering and destruction. But when you zoom in, you meet ordinary and very good people everyday who want it to be good. 99 percent of all people do not want to see the world burn! But the power has this tiny part that wants exactly that. The joke is that this percent really has no power at all.

We give them the power. We have only the responsibility for our own little place in our lives. But the world is a mosaic of all these little individual places. If I make my own little world a good place, and everyone does that, then the world becomes a good place. I believe in the power of imagination, quite specifically. The reason we both are in this room right now is that we both believed in it and imagined it. You thought you were in this room at some point. I thought I would be in this room at some point. And that’s why we’re both in this room now. The world as you experience it is very much influenced by how you imagine it. Conversely, your actions and the choices you make are linked to your ideas. Our actual existence, I believe, hovers somewhere in between. And there is the music. ”

Jazz – as Washington embodies, speaks, plays and celebrates – is not academic. He is oceanic. Was always there, will always be there. Those who are absorbed in it can encounter all other genres there. It is essentially what was known in the early 1970s as Deep Jazz or Spiritual Jazz. A music that searches for itself and at the same time is this search.

At the beginning of his own journey, the ancient heroes, including the great Pharoah Sanders, took the young torch-bearer in their midst and prepared for his mission. What advice did you give him? Washington sighs deeply and leans back in the sofa. Scratches his head. Frowns and bends forward again to speak directly into the microphone: “Find out who you are. Find out what you want … and dedicate your life to trying to achieve it.”

Ein Ozean aus Jazz: Kamasi Washington und sein bahnbrechendes neues Album HEAVEN AND EARTH

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