There have been a number of reasons for greater optimism about jazz’s future in the last year or so. Not to suggest that there aren’t always a few good reasons to feel positively about the current state of the music but, like everything, optimism waxes and wanes.
And after feeling that somehow most of the encouraging signs had been coming from the European side of the Atlantic for a while, I was interested to find that in the last 12 months many of those flags of hope have been waving at me from across the pond.
In just the past few months there has been the increasing confidence of New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah with his Stretch Music, the re-interpreting of hip-hop beats and MC phrasing by saxophonist Marcus Strickland and his Twi-Life band, there has been the sumptuous production coupled with lively playing from another trumpeter with a jazz bloodline, Theo Croker, and there have been the astute alto stylings of Logan Richardson.
But bigger than all these was the splash made last year by Kamasi Washington whose statements – whether his tenor solos, the size of his band, the length of his album – were rightly identified as Epic, and the ripples continue to spread generously outwards.
Esteemed music writer and Berlin Jazz Festival director Richard Williams, in his blog The Blue Moment, sums it up well:
“Washington’s music comes at you in waves, surging and receding… This is music in search of transcendence and/or catharsis.”
He concludes his piece which deals mainly with Kendrick Lamar before tackling Washington’s music:
“It’s too early to be definitive about all this, to claim that this new development represents the future, or to dismiss it because the kind of jazz they’re exploring/exploiting isn’t, of itself, new and challenging. What matters is that some interesting young minds are facing up to the problem of where jazz goes next, and they’re turning it into an adventure.”
If you want to find out how that adventure sounds live and you live in the UK, there is good news. Kamasi Washington is playing a number of dates here next month. They are:
26 June – Glastonbury Festival, Pilton
27 June – Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow
28 June – Manchester Academy, Manchester
29 June – O2 Institute2, Birmingham
30 June – Anson Rooms, Bristol
2 July – Hyde Park, London
3 July – Love Supreme Festival, Brighton