When Kamasi Washington released his tour de force LP, The Epic, in 2015, it instantly set him on a path as a torchbearer for progressive, improvisational music that would open the door for new audiences to experience music unlike anything they had heard before. The 172-minute odyssey featuring his 10-piece band, The Next Step, was littered with elements of hip-hop, classical and R&B music, all major influences on the young saxophonist and bandleader, who exceeds any notions of what “jazz” music is.
Released to critical acclaim, The Epic won numerous “best of” awards, including the 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, Run the Jewels, Ibeyi, and John Legend, and the creation of “Harmony of Difference,” a standalone multimedia installation during the 2017 Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.
The fulfillment of Washington’s destiny begin when at age 13, Washington picked up his musician father’s horn and proceeded to play the Wayne Shorter composition “Sleeping Dancer Sleep On” despite never touching a saxophone or knowing how to play. After deciding to commit to his instrument, he became, lead tenor saxophone chair at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts at Alexander Hamilton High School,, where he started his first band—Young Jazz Giants—with pianist Cameron Graves, Thundercat, and Ronald Bruner, Jr.
Washington received a full scholarship to the University of California at Los Angeles, where he studied ethnomusicology. He recorded his first album with Young Jazz Giants during the summer following his freshman year. The quartet’s self-titled debut was dripping with maturity well beyond the players' collective age, and with Washington penning four of the album’s seven original songs, became a platform to spread the “now” sound of jazz all around the country.
Following his sophomore year at UCLA, Washington went on his first national tour with West Coast hip-hop legend Snoop Dogg, performing alongside some of the most talented young musicians in the country. Later that year, the young saxophonist joined the orchestra of Gerald Wilson, one of his biggest heroes. After graduation, Washington toured with Grammy Award-winning producer, singer and songwriter Raphael Saadiq, and later that year, returned to Wilson’s band on the album In My Time.
His mass appeal continues to grow drawing vibrant, diverse, multi-generational crowds to his shows at the world’s most prominent festivals such as Coachella, Glastonbury, Fuji Rock, Bonnaroo and Primavera. A prominent journalist recently summed it up best when he wrote “in a millennium largely absent of anything new or captivating in the jazz idiom, Washington has just unleashed a musical hydra grounded in respect and intimate knowledge of the past and striking far out into a hopeful future.” Next up for Washington is the highly anticipated Harmony of Difference EP, due for release this Fall and his sophomore album slated for 2018.
Moonchild’s upcoming single, “The List” drops November 3rd on Tru Thoughts. Taken from the third acclaimed album by the LA-based soul and jazz trio, this latest cut highlights a new level of maturity to the band’s sound. Situated somewhere in the nexus between acceptance and the aftermath of a romantic promise, Navran explores motifs of heartbreak and emotional freedom.
Since releasing their last single “Run Away” in early September, praise for Moonchild’s third album ‘Voyager’ has continued to grow with vocal support from BBC 1XTRA, BBC 6Music, and KCRW; a video premiere for the cinematic “Cure” with The Fader, and an upfront stream of the sun soaked “Show The Way” via Okayplayer. Further reviews from DJ Mag, The Evening Standard and LA Weekly add to support for the album, as well as online praise from The Fader, Soulbounce, Saint Heron, and Jazz FM playlisting. The band also took up the mic and guest hosted the Bandcamp Weekly show, sharing their inspirations behind making the album with listeners.
“The List” sees Moonchild push and pull their rhythm section to new altitudes, sprinkling tasteful moments of flute between notes of unreciprocated romance. Filtered keys and the low crackle of vinyl draw the listener closer, seconds before a world of bass tones unfurl and gentle horns flower into Navran’s longing to be freed from her emotions. Following the lyrical themes of ‘Voyager’, Amber Navran details the struggles of love and an inner conflict found when trying to leave it all behind. “The List is about the feelings that linger while you’re trying to get over someone - that weird mix of loving them and hating them at the same time. It makes you feel stuck and search for a way to not feel those things, but in the end it’s part of the process and it will pass too” explains Amber. She continues: “The List” is acknowledging those feelings and venting about them, recognizing it’s just what you have to go through (instead of blaming yourself for feeling that way), and at the end singing “I know that I’ll make it through” underneath all the chatter of mixed emotions in the lyrics of the outro.”
Their latest album ‘Voyager’ follows two years after their widely-praised album ‘Please Rewind’, marking a new level of maturity in the band’s sound. The album was recorded in a series of sessions in a cabin at Lake Arrowhead, California. In their break from the city, Moonchild took inspiration from their surroundings and allowed nature’s influences to permeate their recordings. On ‘Voyager’, Moonchild manifest their perspectives on modern love across 13-tracks with emotional nuance.
As they build their repertoire, multi-instrumentalists Amber Navran, Max Bryk, and Andris Mattson have switched up the arrangement on ‘Voyager’ by bringing in friends, a harpist and string players, and brought new techniques to the fore. Since graduating from the USC Jazz school in 2014 and cementing themselves into the LA music scene, Moonchild have released three albums ‘Be Free’ , ‘Please Rewind’  and ‘Voyager’ ; these have been shown love by DJs like Gilles Peterson, Don Letts & Huey Morgan (BBC 6Music) to Jamie Cullum and Anthony Valadez (KCRW); garnered press and online praise from The Fader, Echoes Magazine, Saint Heron, Kick Mag, KCRW and Okayplayer; and accumulated an impressive figure of 1+ million streams on Spotify for lead single “Cure” from the ‘Voyager’ album. Moonchild have collaborated or toured with highly-respected names in the soul-jazz crowd including Stevie Wonder, Jill Scott, India.Arie, Leela James, The Internet, and built up a host of iconic supporters from Robert Glasper and Laura Mvula to James Poyser, Jazzy Jeff, Jose James, 9th Wonder and Tyler, The Creator.
The band will continue to share their soulful vibes across East Asia, Europe and the USA in the fall leg of their ‘Voyager’ tour (see overleaf for new US fall dates). Rich with compositional merits and well-crafted production, with every listen Moonchild’s album reveals surprises, compounding the lifeblood of the eclectic LA music scene, with honest and modest musicianship at its core.
Music titan Kamasi Washington’s new EP Harmony of Difference, the first new music from Washington since his universally acclaimed 2015 debut album The Epic, is out September 29 via Young Turks.