Competing with both Babymetal and the Red Hot Chili Peppers is no mean feat, but, then again, saxophonist Kamasi Washington isn’t going to be particularly concerned with that since he’s a jazz musician who probably doesn’t think he’s up against anyone else but himself.
For sure, the crowd at the Field of Heaven for his Sunday night headlining show was sparser than normal, but the folks who showed up were treated to a monumental show of musicianship that didn’t stint on the spectacle. Washington, after all, has been instrumental in imbuing hip-hop with a potent jazz component, and he has taken back in equal amounts: the show at the Field of Heaven was dance delirium.
The large group didn’t really play that many songs, but everything was fortified with rhythmic intensity thanks to two drummers and an aesthetic that took black urban music for granted. “Rerun,” a typical R&B jam gradually evolved into a showcase for every soloist on the stage, including the seemingly teenage pianist. “My Hero,” a song dedicated to Washington’s grandmother that feature his own father on flute, churned into an emotional epiphany that left the crowd drained and wanting more.
Even the showcases for band members — the bassist who just released a solo album, the two drummers who were given a spotlight to challenge each other, the keyboardist known as “Mr. Boogie” — were expanded to include everyone on stage, and also everyone at once. The songs built into monumental things, and the audience, in addition to dancing their asses off, were compelled to absorb the musicianship, which was astounding and thrilling at the same time.
The band dug it. They provided an encore because the response was so overwhelming This wasn’t necessarily a crowd who were jazz aficionados. They like R&B, and can appreciate a good dance tune. But Kamasi gave them so much more: dancing that transcended mere bumping and grinding. They were transported.