Jazz In the Bay

Curated calendar of the best jazz shows in SF Bay Area

A curated calendar of the best jazz shows in SF Bay Area

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Kamasi Washington

  • The Warfield 982 Market Street San Francisco, CA, 94102 United States (map)

Tickets ($21 - $50)

A saxophonist and composer who has risen from the underground Los Angeles music scene to become one of the most celebrated and visible faces in jazz today, Kamasi Washington brings his new double album, Heaven and Earth, to this show.

The album is about a big concept — this time, the interplay between human consciousness and collective action — and it’s got the full orchestra and choir. Washington’s music pulls rhythms from the Caribbean and Los Angeles’s fusion-driven jazz scene of the 1970s and ’80s, as well as the city’s more Afrocentric exponents. And as he corrals dozens of carefully tracked instruments — both electric and acoustic — he also thinks and operates like a contemporary producer. He wrote almost every tune on “Heaven and Earth,” as well as “The Epic,” and he arranged and produced both albums. He belongs in conversations about production and sound design, alongside Flying Lotus (who put out “The Epic”) and Thundercat (who’s featured on both albums).

Washington’s 2015 tour de force LP, The Epic, instantly set him on a path as our generation’s torchbearer for progressive, improvisational music that would open the door for young audiences to experience music unlike anything they had heard before. The album won numerous “best of” awards, including the inaugural American Music Prize and the Gilles Peterson Worldwide album of the year. Washington followed that work with collaborations with other influential artists such as Kendrick Lamar, John Legend, Run the Jewels, Ibeyi and the creation of “Harmony of Difference,” a standalone multimedia installation during the prestigious 2017 Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC. His distinctive saxophone playing and string arrangements are featured on Kendrick Lamar’s landmark, GRAMMY-winning 2016 album To Pimp a Butterfly, which took Best of Year honors from Rolling Stone, Billboard, and Pitchfork. With The Epic, Washington has made a sprawling statement of purpose that has catapulted his profile to that of the biggest crossover jazz artist on the scene, earning Album of the Year in the DownBeat Critics Poll and selling out concert halls over the world.

The best way to experience the cleanse and burn of Kamasi Washington’s music is live; with just the core members of the group, his songs become airborne vehicles with plenty of room for you to climb inside. Soloists like Mr. Washington and the trombonist Ryan Porter don’t have to fight for space. Still, his growing body of orchestral recordings is making big statements of its own, confronting an earthly reality that continues to grow darker with an earnest and open vision.

Earlier Event: October 19
SFJazz Collective
Later Event: October 20
SFJazz Collective

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