Kamasi Washington, Barrowlands, 22nd May 2019

When I started getting into jazz, Kamasi Washington was one of the first artists that I was drawn to.  I didn’t really know much about the genre (still learning so much all the time) and tended to favour the older, “classic” jazz, struggling to get to grips with some of the newer or fusion-type styles.  But Kamasi always struck me as an artist that was more accessible but also exciting and saying something with the music, real musical storytelling.

I missed a tour a year or so ago, but luckily they came round again.  Another artist that I had come across and been impressed by, Oscar Jerome, was announced as one of the supports, so it was looking like a very enticing line-up.

Never one to sail into gigs care-free, my younger daughter developed chicken pox the day of the concert, but luckily she was still able to go to her dad’s for the evening.  By the time I got there, I had already missed most of Oscar Jerome’s set, but I saw 2 or 3 songs and he confirmed himself as a performer to watch out for.  He was backed by a strong band, who lent more of a full-on jazz vibe to his songs than I had heard on record/radio.

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Oscar Jerome & band

I hadn’t heard of the 2nd support – Yussef Deyes, but it turns out I have a bunch of songs saved in my “discovering jazz” playlist from his collab project, Yussef Kamaal.  Although he was listed as a solo name, he introduced his outfit to the audience as the “Yousef Dayes Trio”.  Yussef himself was the band leader and drummer, the others in the trio were a bassist and guy on keys.  I really liked them.  Funky, with a lot of African rhythm influences, they got the growing crowd moving and dancing.

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Yussef Deyes & band

And well, Kamasi Washington.  I mean, it was incredible.  I knew it would be a good gig, but they were out of this world.  I haven’t really had time to process the whole night, but even if I did, I’m not sure I have the vocabulary yet to properly describe what I saw.  Some highlights:

  •  2 drummers!! And yes, they had a “drum-off” at one point although it was described as having a conversation, which I guess is more accurate. 
  • The solos/featured players throughout were undoubtedly brilliant and the talent on the stage was immense, at times I’m sure I was open-mouthed, but when they all came together that was when I felt the shivers right in my gut.
  • Kamasi himself was a gracious band leader, an inspiring soloist, a powerful but serene presence on stage and occasional inspiring orator.

It still blows my mind that I have got to this point.  Seeing one of the world’s most thrilling and innovative jazz musicians on stage in Glasgow, at the Barras no less, and that feeling so right.  Someone last week compared sign language interpreting (I’m a trainee interpreter) to jazz – they meant it in a negative way – but to me that was spot on.  Jazz is a language and a culture that I was unfamiliar with and until a few years ago had no interest in.  Now it has opened me up to new experiences, new ways of thinking and understanding music, art, life.  Kamasi Washington is someone who has helped guide me through this journey and it was incredible to witness his talent, his stories and his vision on that stage.

20190522_212117Kamasi Washington and band

I think the last time he toured, Kamasi and his band played the QM.  This gig being at the Barras seems to be evidence of this new jazz revival that I keep hearing about.  Not only was it almost a sell-out, it was full of a very enthusiastic audience who seemed to be genuinely engaged fans, not just folk casually dropping in, or being dragged by a friend or partner.

I was just about congratulating myself on not getting overly emotional like I did at a previous jazz concert when it all came to an end, no encore, the various band members were acknowledged, he humbly gave his own name to finish and I very nearly lost it.

What a night, what an experience, what a musician.

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Kamasi Washington and more band

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