For breathing new energy into jazz
Kamasi Washington is an L.A.-based jazz saxophonist who has worked with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Lauryn Hill, Raphael Saadiq, and Kendrick Lamar. But in 2015 his own album, the explosive 173-minute The Epic, became a modest hit, and was praised by critics as perhaps the most accessible, exciting jazz offering in decades. Washington is being credited with expanding the audience for jazz, with music that blends elements of gospel, classical, and popular genres. Washington has been playing with the same core of friends and musicians for more than two decades; The Epic got its start in 2011, when most of them locked themselves away in a studio for a month of intense improvisation. Washington’s 2016 tour sold out venues across the country; rather than working as a hired gun, Washington is now setting his sights on his own ambitious projects.