|Kamasi Washington. Photo credit: Albert Opalko|
Sunday at Love Supreme 2016 – Kamasi Washington, Avery Sunshine, Jacob Collier, Swindle and Binker and Moses
(Glynde. E Sussex. 3rd July 2016. Round-Up review by John L. Walters)
Sunday at Love Supreme was a near-perfect festival day – no rain, sunny but not scorching. Which might be a good description of Avery Sunshine’s upbeat but fundamentally relaxed set, which channelled funky 70s soul music – Sly Stone, James Brown, Stevie Wonder – with a hint of gospel.
Another kind of soulfulness infused the (JazzFM) award-winning duo of Binker and Moses, a ferocious tenor sax and drums duo that felt timeless in its energy and freedom – it’s a classic jazz sound (and fury) that could have been made any time over the past half century.
|Jacob Collier. Photo credit: John L. Walters|
Not so Jacob Collier’s set, a technological audio-visual tour de force that enabled him to play serial ‘Music Minus One’ with just about everything: percussion, drums bass, keys. As he built up overlapping loops, the screen behind filled up with multiple Jacobs, as if he were Disney’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice remade by Zbigniew Rybczyński [on vimeo]. Another keyboard enabled Collier to sing Take 6-style close harmony vocals while several Kraftwerk-like faces appeared on the screen – the Jazzman Machine. With a tricksy, hit-packed repertoire – PTY, Don’t You Worry Bout A Thing and a broken-beat rendition of Bacharach and David’s Close To You – his Arena slot had the crowd marvelling at the sheer ingenuity of his act. Apprentice or Sorcerer? Time will tell.
|Swindle. Photo credit: Albert Opalko|
Producer-keyboard player Swindle, also in the Arena, stirred up a different kind of catchy technological bouillabaisse: pummelling pre-programmed beats blown up to grainy, gargantuan scale by the addition of drums, noisy horns and Swindle’s own keyboards and loquacious samples – ‘jazzy’ rather than jazz, but fun nonetheless.
However diverse, much of the music at Love Supreme was in dialogue with the past, especially the traditions laid down by the flowering of recorded creative musics in the 1960s and early 70s: free jazz, folk-rock, musique concrète, minimalism, funk, fusion, psychedelic soul, electronic and electroacoustic music and so on … all the marginal musics that briefly flowed towards and influenced the centre while still supported by a buoyant music business.
Sampling and the easy availability of recorded music (via Spotify or crate-digging) of the cool eras have made it ever easier to ingest the past and spit it out whole. And new tech always makes things seem contemporary, as many of the Love Supreme acts proved. But understanding tradition is something else.
On a visit to the nearby Ditchling Museum of Art & Craft, I came upon Beatrice Warde’s meditations on the true meaning of ‘tradition’ in an epoch of rapid technological progress. In a book about Cambridge University Press Warde wrote: “The verb trado never meant ‘I worship the past.’ A tradition, to be worthy of the name, must be a carrying on of some freight of hard-won experience that is too valuable to be jettisoned.”
Warde was talking about printing and typographic expertise, but her insights could be applied to the majestic performance by the band of tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington, who opened as if they were already on an adrenaline-fuelled second encore.
|Patrice Rushen, Rickey Washington, Kamasi Washington|
Photo credit: Albert Opalko
Washington is a textbook example of ‘carrying forward’. The commercial and critical success of his triple CD The Epic took the jazz scene by surprise, but its qualities are deep-rooted. His band gave possibly the most exciting yet musically nuanced performance of the weekend, with a set list that included outstanding tunes from The Epic – Re Run, Miss Understanding, Malcolm’s Theme (by Terence Blanchard) and Change of the Guard, one of the best debut album opening tracks of all time. The repertoire is drenched in jazz history, while rarely sounding like a re-run or pastiche. I hear echoes of Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, Carla Bley, Archie Shepp and Wayne Shorter – other listeners will hear different references and resonances. Washington’s generous musical universe is as vast as The Epic’s cover art implies.
The front line of his magnificent seven-piece band comprised Washington and trombonist Ryan Porter plus vocalist Patrice Quinn. The rhythm section was Brandon Coleman on keyboards and keytar, Miles Mosley on double bass and two drummers set up right and left: Ronald Bruner Jr and Antonio ‘Tony’ Austin. (Austin was also the principal recording engineer on The Epic.)
For Henrietta Our Hero, Washington invited his father Rickey Washington (soprano sax and flute) on stage as an eighth band member, saying that Pops (as he’s known) ‘taught everyone on this stage’. (Read Adam Shatz’s ‘Kamasi’s Giant Step’ in The New York Times HERE for the full story of Washington’s education and the genesis of the West Coast Get Down collective – it’s a cheering alternative to the silly assumptions of the awful Whiplash movie.)
Washington introduced the song Abraham – from the forthcoming album by bassist Mosley – by explaining that all the band members, as part of the West Coast Get Down collective, had made their own albums in the sessions that produced The Epic. You can hear Abraham HERE, on Mosley’s site.
Though many listeners have been drawn to Washington for his hip-hop credentials – he was once in Snoop Dogg’s touring band and plays with Kendrick Lamar – there’s little crossover in his music, no attempt to over-please by referencing current pop tropes. Instead he presents his tunes, his band and his solos as the very best he can do, with warmth, confidence and sincerity. Washington is a true (and rare) jazz star in the way he lives and performs in the moment, totally absorbed in his music while communicating to the widest audience.
This is a remarkable and rare achievement, perhaps one that warranted a two-hour slot on the Main Stage rather than a short set in the Big Top, but maybe that’s just a matter of time. What Kamasi Washington and his crew have achieved to date is genuinely awe-inspiring.
LINKS: Our other three Love Supreme 2016 reviews:
– John L. Walters review of Saturday
– Dan Bergsagel’s review of Saturday
– Dan Bergsagel’s review of Sunday