Groundbreaking American saxophonist Kamasi Washington makes his Tyneside debut as part of Sage Gateshead’s Summer Jazz programme.
The in-demand Jazz artist has become hot property in the studio in recent times, having added collaborations with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, John Legend, Run The Jewels and Ibeyi to his already glowing resume.
It goes without saying that Washington is bridging the gap between Jazz and hip-hop in a way that is introducing new generations of music fans to this traditional and much-loved genre. And that cross-section of multi-generational music aficionados are certainly represented here tonight at the Sage Gateshead, where a packed out Hall One awaits the pioneering Californian sax player.
Washington’s latest album Heaven and Earth was voted in the Guardian’s Top 10 albums of 2018; this being a record which also earned the man himself a duly deserved Brit nomination at this year’s award ceremony.
With a touring band featuring as many eight members, the incredibly talented outfit certainly covers a lot of real estate on stage. Joining Kamasi Washington onstage is a pair of duelling drummers, a backing vocalist, a trombone player, Hammond/keys, and bass player Miles Mosely who is tucked away on a platform at the rear of the stage bedecked in a beret, sunglasses and a scarf covering his face.
As Kamasi Washington takes to the stage, he kicks off the proceedings with a spellbinding performance of “Street Fighter Mas”. But although the spotlight may well be on Washington, the beauty of this concert is that it not only showcases the gifted sax player but also rather unselfishly those of his bandmates.
The latter sentiment is apparent from the very first song where the effervescent trombone skills of Ryan Porter and the dynamic upright bass playing of Miles Mosely are elevated to the level of the headliner himself. This is not just any backing band, this is a large scale jazz-ensemble of world-class proportions.
Porter continues to take the spotlight during the second composition, which by Washington’s own admission has an impossible time signature. Before the Gateshead audience are treated to a special guest appearance from the man who taught him everything he knows – his father Rickey Washington.
Collectively the father-son combo performs “Leroy and Lanisha”, where they frequently play off one another to great effect. During the latter stages of the number, Kamasi brings the tempo right down to highlight a moment in the song that brings together a perfect marriage of percussion, bass and keys. It goes without saying the exquisite acoustics of Sage Gateshead only accentuate and enhance a performance such as this.
One of the many highlights of the show is Washington’s epic composition “Truth”. Before this track, Kamasi expresses to the audience that the diversity of everyone on this whole planet is not something to be tolerated it is something to be celebrated. A beautiful sentiment to accompany a beautiful song. With five different melodies being performed simultaneously, each of these musical elements come together to create a sonic tapestry like no other. There are so many layers to this dreamy composition.
Washington brings his set to a close with a song which truly pushes the skill and stamina of each of the artists on stage this evening by way of “Fists of Fury”. It goes without saying that this ensemble truly has to be seen to be believed.
This evening Kamasi Washington delivers a show that fuses together both contemporary and traditional music in a way that perfectly represents jazz in 2020. This may well be the US-based artists first appearance in the North East of England but by his own admittance due to the overwhelming response that he received it won’t be his last.
Event Date: 21-May-2019