Annie Tritt for The New York Times
In Sunday’s New York Times, music critic Ben Ratliff’s feature entitled “Los Angeles Jazz With Kamasi Washington and Others” addresses a snapshot of the current West Coast scene, with an emphasis on Washington’s group and its triple-disc recording titled “The Epic.”
In the piece, Ratliff reminds us of the aesthetic divide that has long existed between New York (“the center of the jazz-performance business”) and Los Angeles – specifically the “temper of life” there, where there is a “possibility for working in a less-pressured and lifelong artistic community, the artist’s sense of security against New York hustle.” From this comes a sense of artistic freedom perhaps not found in the corridors of New York — the sort of freedom, according to Washington, that allows an artist to “do what you want. No one’s going to put a label on you.” This attitude toward the opportunities posed by the Los Angeles “freedom” lifestyle are similar to that of Zoot Sims, who in the 1950’s said of the sound derived from the West Coast experience; “When you hear West Coast jazz, you’re hearing the happiness we were feeling.”
Ratliff has been a gifted Times observer for years now, and this piece is a great read. Click here to check it out.
A 2014 film of Kamasi Washington playing “Miss Understanding”
Read my interview with Ben Ratliff on his book, Coltrane: The Story of a Sound