“[Washington] won over [Coachella] without compromising any sort of jazz roots, nailing afro-funk stops, bebop melodies and high-flying solos from bassists, turntablists and dueling drummers in a lesson in musicality,” says Billboard Magazine.
Washington has made himself known through collaborations with talented musicians like Snoop Dogg and Chaka Khan. His 2015 album The Epic also earned him well-deserved acclaim. The Epic showcased his intellectual ambition and his musical talent through his flawless ten piece band matched with elegant solos. Kamasi Washington and The Next Step have an infectious sound that is quintessential jazz for the modern generation.
Washington’s passion for music was discovered one night at the age of 13. His father left his soprano saxophone lying on the piano. Washington, although he knew nothing about the mechanics of a saxophone, picked it up and played Wayne Shorter‘s composition “Sleeping Dancer Sleep On,” his favorite song at the time.
Washington went on to attend the prestigious Hamilton High School Music Academy where he earned the lead tenor saxophone chair in the top jazz ensemble within two years. During this time, he also joined the Multi School Jazz Band (MJSB) where he reunited with some of his childhood friends also pursuing their passion in music. During his senior year, he formed his first band, The Young Jazz Giants with his long-time friends Ronald Bruner, Stephen Bruner and Cameron Graves. After high school, he received a full scholarship to study ethnomusicology at UCLA where he explored the compelling sounds of non-western music cultures worldwide. The summer after his freshman year, he recorded the first album with The Young Jazz Giants and in his sophomore year, he went on his first national tour with west coast hip-hop legend Snoop Dogg. Later in that eventful year, Washington joined the orchestra of one of his biggest heroes, Gerald Wilson, and later went on his first international tour with Raphael Saadiq.
Since then, Washington has performed and recorded alongside many of his musical heroes from various genres, including Gerald Wilson, McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Burrell, George Duke, Lauryn Hill, Jeffrey Osborne, Mos Def, Quincy Jones, Stanley Clarke, Harvey Mason and Chaka Khan. He is also very well known for his fantastic work on Kendrick Lamar‘s acclaimed 2015 album To Pimp a Butterfly.
Kamasi Washington and The Next Step is a modern spin on a big band. The band includes two drummers, two upright bass players, keyboard players, three horns players, a pianist and a vocalist. In addition to his personal musical endeavors, Washington is a part of a west coast musical collective called the West Coast Get Down.
For more information, visit artsandlectures.ucsb.edu or call 805/893-3535.