Kamasi Washington is an American saxophonist, composer and producer who since his 2015 album release of The Epic and work with Kendrick Lamar has revived jazz music as we know it today. At the age of 13, Kamasi Washington started a lifelong quest discovering the many wonders of music. One night, his father left his soprano saxophone lying on the piano. Kamasi, filled with curiosity for all the beauty he heard from the instrument, picked up his father’s horn. Even though he didn’t know anything about the saxophone – in fact, never even touched one – he played Wayne Shorter’s composition “Sleeping Dancer Sleep On,” his favorite song at the time.
After attending the prestigious Hamilton High School Music Academy, Kamasi received a full scholarship to study ethnomusicology at UCLA, where he explored many of the non-western musical cultures around the world. During the summer after his freshman year, Kamasi recorded his first album with “The Young Jazz Giants” to spread new sounds of jazz all around the country. In his second year at UCLA, Kamasi went on his first national tour with the west coast hip-hop legend Snoop Dogg. Later that year, Kamasi joined the orchestra of one of his biggest heroes, Gerald Wilson, and later went on his first international tour with R&B legend Raphael Saadiq.
In 2017, Kamasi Washington was invited to The Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial where he presented his Harmony of Difference, an original six-movement suite that explores the philosophical possibilities of the musical technique known as “counterpoint,” which Washington defines as “the art of balancing similarity and difference to create harmony between separate melodies.” Washington’s suite included visual elements married to the musical works and draws voraciously on jazz for its foundation. Washington wanted to create something that opened people’s minds to the gift of diversity. In his own words, “my hope is that witnessing the beautiful harmony created by merging different musical melodies will help people realize the beauty in our own differences.”
Following the release of his 2018 album “Heaven and Earth,” Sundance premiered As Told to G/D Thyself, a short film inspired by his album and directed by Terence Nance (HBO’s “Random Acts of Flyness”) and Jenn Nkiru (Beyoncé and Jay Z’s “APESHIT”). In addition to Sundance, the film was also screened at The Broad in Los Angeles, was an art installation for 6 months at the International Film Festival of Rotterdam (IFFR), Black Star film festival, the Montreal Film Festival, a 10-day exhibition at 180 Strand in London and a number of other film festivals and streamed on Apple Music.
Most recently, Kamasi Washington received both Emmy and Grammy nominations for his score on Netflix’s Becoming, an intimate documentary on former first lady Michelle Obama’s life.
Over the years, Kamasi has performed and recorded with many of his musical heroes from various genres, including Gerald Wilson, McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Burrell, George Duke, Lauryn Hill, Jeffrey Osborne, Mos Def, Quincy Jones, Stanley Clark, Harvey Mason, Chaka Khan, Kendrick Lamar, and Snoop Doog. Kamasi’s own band “The Next Step” is a modern spin on a big band, which includes two drummers, two upright bass players, keyboard players, three horns players, a pianist, and a vocalist.