Gig review: Kamasi Washington, Glasgow

Saxophonist Kamasi Washington is the crossover jazz success story of the past year but, according to the man himself on his maiden Scottish voyage, he had been laying the foundations for his stellar touring outfit ever since his third birthday party when he was upstaged by one of his current drummers Ronald Bruner Jr.

Kamai Washington led a soulful jazz ensemble. Picture: Getty
Kamai Washington led a soulful jazz ensemble. Picture: Getty

Kamasi Washington | Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow | Rating ****

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Trombonist Ryan Porter was another childhood recruit to this future band of jazz warriors, investing his tone with such blues, it was claimed he sounded “as if he had five ex-wives”. Such lifetime immersion in their art has resulted in a supremely confident and commercially accessible gumbo of conscious soul, funk and psychedelia-seasoned jazz fusion which draws a line from Herbie Hancock and Alice Coltrane to Washington’s hip-hop collaborators Lauryn Hill and Kendrick Lamar, and then supplies the widescreen cinematic backdrop.

With his aptly named breakthrough album The Epic running to three hours, this 90-minute taster, including a number from keyboard player Brandon Coleman’s solo album and an economic but eloquent “conversation” between the drummers, was over in a flash, such was the informal atmosphere and fluid dynamism of the performance.

Highlights included his father Ricky Washington guesting on soprano saxophone for a spry, propulsive number with Afro funk overtones, and vocalist Patrice Quinn, whose smooth scatting added an almost cosmic dimension to the delivery, floating elegantly over uplifting devotional The Rhythm Changes.