You might not know the name Kamasi Washington, but you’ve almost certainly heard some of his work. If you didn’t hear the South Central saxophonist’s contributions on either of the last two Flying Lotus albums, you most likely heard him on the jazz-inflected new Kendrick Lamar album. That album’s enormous audience certainly helped shine the spotlight on Washington, but it is his own album, released this month via Flylo’s Brainfeeder label, that you should be paying attention to.

It’s called The Epic, and at triple-album, 172-minute length, that isn’t an ironic title. The album was recorded with Washington’s band The Next Step. That group of musicians from the same area in Los Angeles has been playing together for years and includes virtuoso bassist Thundercat. The Epic also features a full choir, a 32-piece orchestra, and the odd vocal lead, and it adds up to a fairly major modern jazz statement. The album was launched with a performance at The Regent Theatre earlier this month, and it represents the full fruition of one of the city’s most extraordinary musical talents.

After saying that, I should point out the following: I’m not a jazz fan. That comes less from a dismissal of the genre than a feeling that I’ve been waiting without much success for it to click with me since I was a teen. As it happens, this seemingly unwieldy three-hour beast might actually be the gateway drug into jazz that I have been looking for all this time, which I would describe, at the very least, as unexpected.

On top of that, the idea of a South Central jazz ingénue makes for a hell of a story, and his band is surely amongst the most purely gifted artists in our city. The Epic is a cause for celebration whichever way you look at it, and as its creator, Washington deserves all the acclaim coming his way.

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Kamasi Washington