The LA native treated guests to a spectacle of jazz excellence marked by heartfelt synergy.
Words by Luis (@luis.hoa):
In true summer fashion, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association return from a year of audience-less music to continue a legacy marked by a hefty catalog of can't miss performances at the Hollywood Bowl. With events by Christina Aguilera, Cynthia Erivo, Viola Davis, Ledisi, H.E.R., and Ruth Reinhardt to name a few, the LA Phil are pulling out all the stops to make this one concert series to remember. Among the talented bunch is Grammy nominated and Libera Award-winning mastermind, Kamasi Washington, who returned to his backyard this past Sunday, July 18th for an unforgettable night of moving jazz orchestrations.
Kicking the evening off was the spirited DOMi & JD Beck, a duo known for an eclectic approach to the genre. Though audiences were steadily entering the venue and many still getting their refreshments, DOMi's funk-laden synth drew many towards their seats while JD Beck's drum patterns set us all into rhythm. Taking nods from their Grammy-winning mentor Anderson .Paak pays dividends as DOMi & JD Beck had many bobbing their heads early on with their smooth musical intricacies.
They may be incredibly young, but the exposure of playing in front of thousands amidst the Bowl is one that will leave a lasting impact as they both progress onto the genre's expansive ranks. As JD Beck's drum fills rolled on, LA's own Thebe Kgositsile, otherwise known as Earl Sweatshirt, walked onto the stage to commence a highly anticipated performance. His appearance was met with loud cheers, and rightfully so, as the once Odd Future rapper breezed through a career spanning set of deep cuts and fan favorites.
Dj Black Noi$e hit play on Shattered Dreams and Earl's buttery smooth flow ensued, bringing the jazz laden hip-hop of 2018's Some Rap Songs to the Bowl's unique setting. Earl walked slowly from one side to the other, spitting bar after bar of his signature raw lyricism. Vein came next and the record's composition took center stage as Black Noi$e made sure to incorporate every fantastic sample, of which there were many. OD followed and with powerful lines like "I watched a child get introduced to violence" and "We wasn't supposed to be alive no funny shit", Earl proceeded to speak of the reality that shaped his persona, a persona that millions of youth across the world cater to.
From Nowhere2go to Ontheway! and then The Mint, there was no stopping the rapper's sermon. Earl mentions his lack of strength when it comes to banter, yet his light humor was effective in stirring a few laughs between tracks. As The Mint came to a close, Earl spoke to the crowd, asking if we all read the concert's blurb that stated his desire to get personal. As expected, he did and MTOMB from 2019's FEET OF CLAY arrived as a testament to the rapper's profound lyricism. He went on to perform not only solo tracks, but features as well, specifically his entry on Armand Hammer & The Alchemist's Falling out the Sky. DOMi replicated the track's controlling keys with ease and made the offering a highlight among an otherwise standout setlist. Tyler, the Creator's Rusty also had a showing with Earl commanding through his guest appearance on the track while Grief put his somber thematic elements on a pedestal. DOMi & JD BECK went on to perform a graceful interlude afterwards, paving the path for the final stretch of the set, which included Head Heavy 2, Wind In My Sails, Quest/Power, and another feature, that being Loose Change by The Alchemist.
There were no gimmicks, no elaborate stage setup or pyrotechnics, just unfiltered talent by Earl Sweatshirt and the varied selection of talent that joined him on stage. He's not one to perform often, especially given the subject matter of his lyrical approach, so moments like these are to be appreciated. The disorienting yet soothing element of his stacked discography received the attention it merits and prepared audiences for the magisterial showing that was to follow.
As Earl, Black Noi$e, and DOMi & JD BECK left the stage, KCRW's Anne Litt came on and greeted an enthusiastic crowd, thanking audiences for their continued support of the public radio station, which was celebrating Night 1 of their annual World Festival at the Hollywood Bowl. The sun began setting and the stage was being prepared for the headlining act, drawing the thousands onto their seats. The clock hit 8:30pm and Kamasi proceeded to center stage as the venue roared with applause, indicating that a soulful movement was about to take place.
With such a large catalog of offerings to choose from, any Kamasi setlist would've been welcomed with praise, but the night's selections were truly something to behold. From album hits to unreleased gems, his Hollywood Bowl setlist was one to embrace and everything kicked off with the expansive Drive. As Kamasi, mentions this was the first time audiences had a chance to hear the track, the likes of which radiated wonder with multiple melodies coalescing into one immersive sitting that lifted me off my feet.
You can't help but nod your head and tap along to the infectious groove that flowed throughout the Hollywood Bowl's acoustics. Kamasi's tenor sax flew high alongside an outstanding showing by Dontae Winslow on the trumpet. It's musicians like Winslow that make Kamasi's team so special, which includes bass virtuoso Thundercat, Dj Battlecat, percussionist Kahlil Cummings, pianist Cameron Graves, vocalist Patrice Quinn, and the great Miles Mosley on the double bass to name a few. No matter where you look on stage, there's a notable energy present in each member that is expressed in their enjoyment. Drive's live debut proved to be the ideal opener, raising questions as to when the general public would have the opportunity to embark upon the spiritual journey it narrates.
Next up on the list was Truth from 2017's Harmony Of Difference EP, an eloquent tune that sports five simultaneous melodies. While this may seem a bit overbearing, Fred Vogler, Benjamin Adamson, and Nevin Thomas excelled on the audio end to ensure a seamless listen that gave each musician their shine. Emotions ran high and Miles Mosley catapulted the track with a double bass solo to die for. The crowd gazed in awe at Mosley's on screen fingers as they traversed through the strings with precision. Truth is remembered for the heart-wrenching music video that accompanies it, and though it wasn't played on screen, Kamasi helped transmit those same alluring qualities.
Sun Kissed Child, a song written by Kamasi shortly after his daughter's birth, continued the emotion with yet another charming performance, one driven by a pairing of Patrice Quinn power and Rickey Washington's exquisite flute playing. Washington's flute solo was extensive and quite welcome amidst the maelstrom of sound that proceeded beneath. From 2015's The Epic came Re Run, a masterclass capable only by the multidisciplinary work of Kamasi. It's here that the musician gave credit where credit was due and shouted out his bassist Stephen "Thundercat" Bruner for steering the jazz genre's contemporary strength. As a solo artist, Thundercat has went on to receive multiple Grammy awards and nominations for his ability to transcend the medium in which his music is listened to. Bruner followed Kamasi's acknowledgement with a truly breathtaking bass solo that further cemented Bruner as one of music's elite talents.
The improvisation of Re Run and the rest of the tracks was a showcase of what makes the widely lauded group so exceptional. There were no dull moments, only moments of astonishment for what was occurring before our eyes is not a feat commonly achieved. Like Thundercat, Kamasi's partners had their spotlight with a solo performance spread throughout the 8-track setlist, each of which consisted of superb musicianship and uplifting soul.
Pig Feet brought on sax master Terrace Martin and a trio of rappers, including Daylyt and Compton's own Problem, for a performance that blended hip-hop's bravado with the vibrance of jazz, driving forth a message against police brutality. Kamasi's sax melodies scream with pain as each rapper's verses detail the horrifying death that occurs at the hands of law enforcement on a daily basis. Problem raises his fist high and all join in unison, rocking their hands left to right for an empowering scene to witness. Pig Feet is a testament to the sociopolitical depth of Kamasi's compositions, the likes of which was alive and present at the Hollywood Bowl that evening.
Describing Kamasi as a saxophonist would only scratch the surface of his multifaceted self, as the following performance of Announcement would attest. The track stems from his wondrous score for Michelle Obama's renowned Becoming (2020) documentary, an ambitious undertaking that captures the significance of the cinematic endeavor. For as great as the documentary was, Kamasi's work played a critical role in taking the impact to the next level and the live rendition of Announcement brought chills down our spines.
To everyone's surprise, Announcement was followed by a track unknown to public ears, that being Kamasi Washington's rendition of the Metallica classic, My Friend Of Misery. To make matters even more special, he introduced the band's own Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo to play alongside the group, reimagining the hard hitting classic. When Kamasi mentioned he had something special planned for the show, he wasn't kidding. Surely enough, Hammett and Trujillo's presence made the rounds across metal publications yesterday morning as excitement runs high for the arrival of The Metallica Blacklist album, which celebrates 30 years of the band's acclaimed self-titled full-length.
With a Les Paul in hand, Hammett riffed away and Trujillo's bass lines rumbled underneath, doing justice to the Jason Newsted staple while giving the jazz performance a metallic edge. Vocally, Patrice Quinn brought forth a versatile performance that went from solemn to fierce with Hetfield's chorus, screaming "MISERY" with conviction as she pounded her fist onto her chest, feeling every emotion. As the track hit the midpoint, Kamasi's prowess came into effect and a sax solo propelled the track to new heights. Another Quinn chorus follows strongly and the spotlight turns to Trujillo, who rips through a bass solo of vibrant nature while Hammett puts the finishing touch with an electrifying guitar solo of pure groove and speed. Needless to say, Kamasi's My Friend Of Misery is one you'll want to keep an eye on come release date on September 10th.
The energy throughout The Hollywood Bowl was at its peak, but Kamasi and co. still had more in store with one final composition to conclude the festivities. From 2018's Heaven & Earth, Fists of Fury would be the one to it. Though the studio version is quite brief at one minute, the group expanded upon the cinematic track with beauty and breathed new life into the evocative melodies embodied within. The spirit of Bruce Lee lives on through the elegant hymn and its live rendition only elevates its might, making it the perfect end to a masterful showing by all who graced the stage.
What transpired that Sunday evening is nothing short of momentous. The thousands present bared witness to the transcendental power of the Kamasi Washington live experience, an experience that set the bar high for a promising summer of shows at LA's first-class concert destination. It was a night in celebration of LA natives who do more than just make their stand in their respective genres, but push outwards towards sonic experimentation. Lucky those who were in attendance, myself included.