23rd May | O2 Academy

If you haven’t heard Kamasi Washington’s music, or even heard of Kamasi Washington, you’ll more than likely recognise the artwork for his landmark 2015 album, The Epic. Holding his tenor sax as a dignified tribal elder might hold a staff, his large frame draped in a traditional African robe, standing in front of some ambiguous celestial bodies, it was (and still is) a fairly ubiquitous presence on record shop shelves.

As for the music, the album is a sprawling, three-chaptered, three-hour-long wander that makes up for its lack of direction with sheer scope of ambition. Alongside a feature on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly in the same year, the album propelled Washington into the rather exclusive club of jazz celebrity, although jazz is perhaps too strict a characterisation for his music. 

Last year saw the release of Heaven and Earth, the full-length follow up to The Epic. The third single from the album, ‘Street Fighter Mas’, is a brilliantly operatic ode to a childhood spent playing the legendary video game; its video is appropriately cinematic. 

Washington will, no doubt, be reproducing this audio-visual grandeur in his set at The O2 Academy on Thursday. As we are currently experiencing this exciting surge of young musicians pushing British jazz into the pop-culture consciousness, it seems only fitting to welcome a pioneer from the other side of the Atlantic into our newly jazz-revived country. 

See the video for ‘Street Fighter Mas’ here: