Review + Photos – NXNE 2016: Kamasi Washington @ The Danforth Music Hall – Toronto

Kamasi Washington
Kamasi Washington is a saxophonist you outta know.

Famously lending his talents to Kendrick Lamar’s heralded To Pimp a Butterfly, he and his eight-piece ensemble blew the roof off the Danforth Music Hall at NXNE.

For those lucky attendees, myself included, it was jazz of the funkiest order.

Equally mind-bending and accessible, Washington was on site promoting his record, the appropriately tilted The Epic. At three hours in length, a curation of cuts were rapturously recreated live, ascending even greater cosmic heights thanks to his masterful bandmates.

The talented sect included Brandon Coleman, a virtuosic key man sporting stylish yellow shades, as well as Miles Mosley, unleashing unworldly bass tones – and sly self-branding – to Washington’s intergalactic groove.

Interplay aside, the two hour show was simultaneously enthralling in how each bandmate deviated from the assumed confines of the jazz genre. Things felt raw and adventurous, hardly ebbing or falling back on a familiar note.

Decked in eye-popping orange and tribal patterns, Ryan Porter (a.k.a. Soul Brother #1) commanded trombone duties, administering mood alongside Washington’s sonic disruptions with such outstanding numbers as “Re Run Home” and the high-flying “The Rhythm Changes.”

Later on “Henrietta Our Hero,” back-up singer Patrice Quinn emerged from the shadows of stage left for an elegantly apt showpiece.

Much like the tracks found on the record, Quinn’s voice comes honey-tinged, making her presence amongst the on-stage mayhem a defiant counter-balance. Sensual, chic and empowered, her injection of divine melody became more touching knowing the song is about Washington’s grandmother.

Completing the family affair, the Los Angeles-raised saxophonist lovingly brought out his father, Rickey, to jam with the band.

A woodwind specialist, he effortlessly performed an inspired solo interlude, only to quietly step back for his son to expand the mesmerizing squawk on his tenor sax.

Some merely dismiss jazz as outdated or irrelevant. Kamasi Washington is neither, nor is he pastiche.

Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall show bordered on brilliant, melding two worlds where the wild and raucous harmoniously clamoured with ghosts of the genre’s past.

It felt alive. It felt epic.

***

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Follow updates from Kamasi Washington here.

Review and Photos by Myles Herod |

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