Step aside, New York City– the West Coast is here to establish its thriving jazz scene.
What began decades ago in cultural hot spots like Harlem and New Orleans is now sampling heavy influence from all over. Jazz music, whose prime component favors unique improvisations and has always welcomed new ideas, has forever been a melting pot of imprints. The jazz of now savors rhythms from Philadelphia, sultry chords from Chicago, and a whole lot of flavor from– yes, Los Angeles.
East coast to west coast, the genre is transcendent. LA-hailing saxophonist Kamasi Washington is not only bring jazz to the California scene, but back into the contemporary scene. Besides famously collaborating with the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg, he released his now triple-lauded album “The Epic” two years ago, which featured a full string section, 20-person choir, and a collective performing under the title, West Coast Get Down.
Just this winter, four of those members released solo jazz albums of their own, each approaching a contemporary take of the genre in their own stylized way:
Thundercat’s Drunk is a celebration of modern afrocentric acoustics and 80s hazy electric, blended with finger-picked six-string bass harmonies. There’s an east coast melancholy to the tone and lyrics, but a west coast flare which features cameos by both Kendrick Lamar and Pharrell Williams.
Older brother to Thundercat, drummer Ronald Bruner Jr.’s Triumph blends a mesmerizing jazz with modern funk and expansive, atmospheric prog-rock. Consider it neo-soul, a traditional old-school jazz feel mixed addictingly with a Princey swagger.
Cameron Graves’ Planetary Prince delivers astronomic energy, a reverberating momentum driven by funk, harmony, and wild eighth notes. Grave’s piano serves as percussion and swerving melody, generating tracks that are as big as they are bright– just bright enough in fact, you won’t fear weird blasting it with the windows down en route to a day at the beach.
Last but not least, is Miles Mosley, whose album Uprising draws upon inspirations from the politically-infused jazz of the 1970s. Nostalgic of Harlem, but ringing with LA visions, Mosley weaves nostalgic yet hopeful orchestrations of strings and horns with his upright bass.