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 fathers horn. Even though he didnt know anything about the saxophone in fact, never even touched one he played Wayne Shorters composition Sleeping Dancer Sleep On, his favorite song at the time.
At the prestigious Hamilton High School Music Academy, within two years, Kamasi earned the lead tenor saxophone chair in the top jazz ensemble. At the same time, Kamasi joined the Multi School Jazz Band (MSJB) where he reunited with several childhood friends who were pursuing their passion for music. During his senior year of high school, Kamasi formed his first band, The Young Jazz Giants, with childhood friends including Ronald Bruner, Stephen Bruner and Cameron Graves. After high school, 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.
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 and Chaka Khan. Kamasis 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. In addition, Kamasi is part of a west coast musical collective called the West Coast Get Down.
Most recently, Kamasi worked on Kendrick Lamars acclaimed 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly. On May 5th, Kamasi released his groundbreaking solo album The Epic on the trend-setting record label Brainfeeder. The Epic is a 172-minute, triple-disc masterpiece, featuring Kamasis ten-piece band The Next Step along with a full string orchestra and full choir. The Epic debuted #1 on several iTunes Jazz charts, including the US, Canada, Australia, Russia and UK.
Kamasi Washington didn't pick up a saxophone until he was 13 years old, but by that point, he'd been playing several other instruments. That's when he found his calling. Within a couple years, he was the lead tenor saxophonist at Hamilton High School Music Academy in his native Los Angeles. After graduation, he attended UCLA to study ethnomusicology. While enrolled at UCLA, he recorded a self-titled album with Young Jazz Giants, a quartet he had formed with Cameron Graves and brothers Ronald Bruner, Jr. and Stephen "Thundercat" Bruner, released in 2004. From that point, Washington continually performed and recorded with an impressive variety of major artists across several genres, including Snoop Dogg, Raphael Saadiq, Gerald Wilson, McCoy Tyner, George Duke, and PJ Morton. In 2014 alone, Washington demonstrated tremendous range with appearances on Broken Bells' After the Disco, Harvey Mason's Chameleon, Stanley Clarke's Up, and Flying Lotus' You're Dead!, among other albums that covered indie rock, contemporary and progressive jazz, and experimental electronic music.
The following year, Washington contributed to Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly and finally debuted as a leader with The Epic, released on Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label. An expansive triple album nearly three hours in duration, it involved the other three-quarters of Young Jazz Giants -- by then part of his larger ten piece collective, altnerately known as The Next Step and West Coast Get Down-- string orchestra and choir conducted by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson.
The Epic was a critical and commerial success. Not only did it land at number three on the jazz charts, it also found its way on to independent albums and heatseekers charts as well. Washington and his band were not only able to tour the U.S., but to play in Europe and Japan as well. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi
Life began for Kamasi Washington on February 18, 1981 in Los Angeles, California. In the Washington family music was more of a prerequisite then a privilege. But Kamasi never saw it that way, his love for music began at first sound. His father, Rickey Washington is a professional saxophonist by night and a high school music teacher by day.
Kamasi’s mother, Valerie Washington is an accomplished flutist who fell in love with the world of science and became a high school chemistry teacher after her stint as a genetic researcher. By the age of two Kamasi had already began to play the drums and piano, the only thing that kept him away from the wind instruments at that early age was his lack of dental development. He began his exploration into the world of the reeds and brass when he was about seven and his father gave him a clarinet. By the age of twelve Kamasi had found his voice in the form of a tenor saxophone, in fact it was the same saxophone that his father played in high school.
Over the next year Kamasi’s development and devotion to music had out grown his academic environment. So he transferred from The Los Angeles Center of Enriched Studies (one the top academic high schools in the nation) and enrolled into the Hamilton High School Music Academy. It was around this time that Kamasi also joined The Multi School Jazz Band (M.S.J.B.), an assembly of the finest young jazz musicians in Los Angeles County and led by Reginald Andrews the same man that taught Kamasi’s father in high school. Because of the sheer vastness of talent that he was surrounded by it was in The Multi School Jazz Band that inspired Kamasi the most during his high school years. Through M.S.J.B. Kamasi was also able to meet, learn, and create relationships with many of his musical idols such as Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock.
Horse Tapscot, Gerald Wilson, and many others. In Kamasi’s senior year of high school he had the opportunity to compete in the John Coltrane Saxophone competition, in which he received the first place award. As an additional benefit to winning the competition the band of M.S.J.B. members that he assembled to accompany him had such an immediate connection that they decided to stay together and form a group that soon after would be known as “The Young Jazz Giants”.