Twitter Facebook Instagram Google+ Tumblr YouTube E-Mail WhatsApp Sign In Check Close snapchat
Search
Exit Clear

A Night in Brooklyn with Kamasi Washington, Pharoah Sanders & the Sun Ra Arkestra

Photographer: Kevin Shea Adams

Photographer: Kevin Shea Adams

Last night the Red Bull Music Academy Festival brought together a rare set of performances that traced the musical lineages of spiritual jazz. From a circular stage built in the center of the Greenpoint Terminal–an empty industrial warehouse at the heart of Brooklyn’s riverside “forgotten city”–the audience gathered and was surrounded by a concentric array of hi-fi tower speakers, liquid ink projections and Nag Champa.

rbma-spiritual-jazz 002
rbma-spiritual-jazz 003
rbma-spiritual-jazz 013
rbma-spiritual-jazz 014
rbma-spiritual-jazz 004

The night began with the masterfully conducted chaos of Sun Ra’s Arkestra seizing the stage dressed in their shining futuristic robes and setting the controls immediately for the heart of the sun. Within two minutes the show had already entered a place that felt almost frightfully alien, the mostly younger crowd thrown into a steady state of acclimation that closely followed the improvisational currents. The band drove further and further out into reed-blasting fits before centering itself again on a theme or groove to assert that space is (still) the place.

rbma-spiritual-jazz 005
rbma-spiritual-jazz 006

The frantic energy and mass polyphony of the Arkestra finally landed in the low lights and straight, lyrical playing from Pharaoh Sanders, who followed with a sweet Love Supreme level romance, warmth and softness. Back from the panic of space, the music traveled someplace almost equally as far and foreign but now only in its proximity to the human. Sanders felt like a perfectly preserved romance somehow transported from another time.

rbma-spiritual-jazz 007

His ensemble was tight–ritzy even–and he let the group sustain long sections of rhythm (often with no solos) as he rested and incited the crowd to repeat the words “the power of God,” chanting into the bell of his horn.

rbma-spiritual-jazz 008
rbma-spiritual-jazz 015
rbma-spiritual-jazz 016

There could be no better way to prepare for the music of Kamasi Washington, the young saxophonist from L.A. who debuted last year with his triple LP The Epic. Kamasi continues the conversation from a present tense that is marked by fierce agility and playfulness with elements of prog, funk, hip-hop and math rock.

rbma-spiritual-jazz 009
rbma-spiritual-jazz 010
rbma-spiritual-jazz 011

A newer unreleased piece seemed slyly at play with the digital–massive shifting blocks of ever-changing tonal centers, mechanically rising arpeggiations set against flawlessly sorted, stacked and executed polyrhythms. The perfection seems effortless, but it’s hardly the point. Kamasi and his brass section often follow in choir-like unison with singer Patrice Quinn echoing back to the spiritual imperatives chanted earlier by the Arkestra and Sanders.  

rbma-spiritual-jazz 017
rbma-spiritual-jazz 012

Playboy Social

Never miss an issue. Subscribe and save today!

Loading...