In Concert: 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 have blown the roof off the Danforth Music Hall for NXNE.

For those lucky attendees, it is jazz of the funkiest order.

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Photo by Myles Herod

Equally mind-bending and accessible, Washington is on site promoting his record, the appropriately tilted The Epic. At three hours in length, the night’s music ascends to even greater cosmic heights thanks to his masterful bandmates.

Things feel raw and adventurous, hardly ebbing or falling back on a familiar note.

The talented sect includes 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.

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Photo by Myles Herod

Kamasi 4

Photo by Myles Herod

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

At three hours in length, a curation of cuts have been rapturously recreated live, ascending even greater cosmic heights thanks to [Washington’s] masterful bandmates.

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

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Photo by Myles Herod

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

[Patrice] Quinn’s voice comes honey-tinged, making her presence amongst the on-stage mayhem a defiant counter-balance.

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

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Photo by Myles Herod

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

An accomplished woodwind specialist himself, he effortlessly performs an inspired solo interlude. Then, selflessly, he quietly steps back for his son to expand the mesmerizing squawk on his tenor sax.

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Photo by Myles Herod

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Photo by Myles Herod

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

Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall show is simply a brilliant showcase for his talents. It’s the melding of two worlds where the wild and raucous harmoniously clamour with ghosts of the genre’s past.

It feels alive. It is epic.