solo beats by dre headphones A very few degrees of separation from Kendrick Lamar
Peruse the program of our city biggest annual music celebration and you find a handful of names that pop up in the credits to the rapper groundbreaking, chart topping 2015 album To Pimp a Butterfly: saxophonist Kamasi Washington (who performed a pre fest show Monday, June 20 at Metropolis), R vocalist Bilal, producer and multi instrumentalist Terrace Martin, pianist Robert Glasper and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. at Thtre Maisonneuve of Place des Arts as part of the Blue Note 75 Band; tickets cost $42.25 to $53.25.)
These visionary artists are on the vanguard, merging jazz with an array of contemporary black music to create hybrids that haven been named yet. The Montreal Gazette talked to three of them to get the scoop on the jazz underpinnings of To Pimp a Butterfly, and their own takes on the place of jazz in modern music.
Kendrick Lamar (pictured at the Osheaga festival in 2015) used jazz underpinnings on To Pimp a Butterfly. “He’s a fearless artist, says collaborator Kamasi Washington.
Kamasi Washington (who performed a pre fest show Monday, June 20 at Metropolis)
Born and raised in the West Coast rap hotbed of South Central Los Angeles, the 35 year old saxophone player has toured with Snoop Dogg and performed with Lauryn Hill and Mos Def, as well as jazz artists Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Burrell, George Duke and McCoy Tyner.
In 2015 he released his aptly titled three part debut album The Epic, a passionate opus that clocks in at a cool 172 minutes. Sitting in the Metropolis lobby during sound check Monday afternoon, Washington reflected on his journey so far.
On the recording sessions for To Pimp a Butterfly: was very free and open as far as creativity, but it felt very much like a working environment. Everyone was in there making music, not just hanging out. Sometimes you go do sessions and people hang out for eight hours and record for three. That was not the case there. We were just trying to do something special, and I felt really blessed to be part of it. Kendrick Lamar openness: a fearless artist. City was. To then turn around and do something completely different like he did is rare. He brought musicians in and let them be themselves. He gave them free rein to create something that unique. And he so brilliant, you can stump him; you can trip him up. There (no style of music) that he can create on top of. make music and someone comes along and gives it a name. his own musical start: a second generation musician. My dad (flutist and soprano saxophonist Rickey Washington, who performed with his son band at Metropolis) is a musician. I been playing since I was a baby. I started on drums when I was about three. I started playing piano when I was five or six, clarinet when I was nine and saxophone when I was 13. When I was 11 is when I really got into jazz. Wayne Shorter was my favourite musician. At that point, I was really hearing the saxophone. I wanted to play sax, but my dad wouldn let me; he wanted me to focus on clarinet first. I ended up just taking his sax one day and figuring it out on my own. his debut album, The Epic: started working on it in 2011 and ended the first round of recording with a really big amount of music. I was having trouble figuring out what to put on the album. My motivation for this record wasn necessarily to make the most popular record. I was trying to make a record that was I spent so much of my career making music for other people, I needed to make something that was me. The only way for this record to really be me was for all these songs to be on it, and all these songs equal up to a triple disc. Otherwise it would have been incomplete. mixing genres: don think genres really exist. It just music. You make music and someone comes along and gives it a name, calls it something. This mix of genres has always been there. There has always been jazz and hip hop, funk and rock roll; rock roll and R have always crossed and mixed in with each other. They like liquids, not solids. You can put them in a bowl together and not have a little bit from all of them. at Club Soda; $35.25)
He rose to prominence as an R singer, but Philadelphia native Bilal Sayeed Oliver is a jazz cat through and through, having trained at New York School of Jazz at the New School alongside Robert Glasper.
Those lucky enough to have caught his guest appearance with Glasper at the 2010 Montreal International Jazz Festival know the man is a vocalist of rare talent and ingenuity.
The 36 year old has collaborated with the Roots, Erykah Badu, Common, Mos Def, Dr. Dre and J Dilla, among others, since his 2001 debut 1st Born Second. Record label woes led to a lengthy delay before his 2010 followup Airtight Revenge. His swirling 2015 album In Another Life includes an appearance by Lamar, and Bilal is featured on two songs on To Pimp a Butterfly (one of which, These Walls, won the Grammy for best rap/sung collaboration).
On the connection with Lamar: have the same understanding of music, what we like and what we want to do in terms of exploring a style and stance. Kendrick comes to it the same way, bringing jazz experimentation into hip hop, so it just came together perfectly.
wouldn say I a crooner, but I like to try to sing soul music in a lyrical way socio consciously, if you will. I like to talk about the world and look, politically, at where everything is. Kendrick does that, too. the sessions for To Pimp a Butterfly: was good friends with almost everyone in the studio, before I even met Kendrick Terrace Martin and Thundercat have been my friends for years. Everyone except maybe Terrace played on my album (In Another Life). his own musical beginnings: first way into music was the church. I remember when I was little I used to imitate Michael Jackson and Prince, and I just sang in the church growing up. That how I learned, singing gospel. Then my mom got me into the Archdiocesan Boy Choir (of Philadelphia) when I was in 7th grade, so that was my introduction into classical type music. Eventually in my church most of the people there were in my own family; it was a very small church I started directing the choir. So early on, I started to understand music. breaking into the New York jazz scene: would pick my moments. By then I had learned to scat changes. I would memorize a lot of solos Lee Morgan, Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter solos. I had learned to hear changes like a horn player. By the time I arrived in New York, I was like Jon Hendricks. I would just get up and scat. the relevance of jazz: stance on jazz has always been, is cool, but there nothing but old people at the gigs. I was trying to find sophisticated ways to update the music with the same kinds of concepts but with a different backbeat, because that what really changes stuff. When I listen to Herbie Hancock Head Hunters or Return to Forever, it still jazz but the backbeat has changed; it not swing anymore. his transition from jazz to R wound up getting more accepted as a soul singer than as the jazz musician I set out to become. I don know I guess I on a constant thing to prove that I a musician (laughs). his friendship with Robert Glasper: we connect in the same way. Everything just happens through osmosis. When we get in the studio, we just play. He was one of those people I used to debate with. On my very first tour, Rob was the piano player. We always been developing these concepts of mixing genres and sounds. I think it very important because it keeps the concept of music and the theory of jazz open. at Club Soda; $32.25 to $35.25)
On meeting Lamar: met Kendrick when I was younger, around 2005 or 2006. I worked on (his albums) and all his mixtapes. When I met him and heard him rap, he reminded me of one of my mentors, Kurupt from Tha Dogg Pound. We always had a close relationship, musically and personally. I always admired his artistry. He always pushed himself more than anyone. Even with the beats I would give him, he would always choose the most melodic, jazz sounding things rather than the rap stuff. the atmosphere when recording To Pimp a Butterfly: was serious very, very serious, and no egos. The biggest ego in the room was the music. Those sessions were very similar to playing at a jazz club. We were all playing off each other, learning to communicate with each other without talking, so people could feel the music in a certain way. We were giving Kendrick a palette of music so he could say what he had to say. the musical vision for the album: wanted to do something that never been done. That it. We would challenge each other. That the concept of everything we do, to get the best music out of each other. It the same concept that Herbie (Hancock) taught me. When we get together, everyone has roles and the final goal is happiness. We all got our happy spot in life, and we all need to get to that spot. We were all playing off each other, learning to communicate with each other without talking. his introduction to music: I got into playing music because my mother and father were musicians. So the house, growing up, was full of records: John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Jackie McLean for my dad; for my mom it was Luther Vandross and BeBe and CeCe Winans, Gregory Hines and Whitney Houston; and I play hip hop. I fell in love with DJing. My friend turned me on to Run DMC, MC Shan and EPMD. Then my dad would make me listen to John Coltrane. I hated jazz hated it until I heard A Tribe Called Quest. That changed my life. It made me want to dig deeper into music and figure out why I felt that way. It broadened my horizons about merging things. his latest solo album, Velvet Portraits: me a portrait is capturing a scene. I wanted to provide an audio portrait and present it to people in a special way, as if it was a velvet portrait, to remind everyone of soul, gospel, funk and the different musical elements it took to get where we at. Now that I done that, I ready to move on. his friendship with Kamasi Washington: known him since I was 14. We grew up in similar neighbourhoods, and played in the same high school bands. His father is dear friends with my father. Being his friend has taught me a lot, musically and socially. We call Kamasi the peacemaker of the whole crew, the giant peacemaker. working with Herbie Hancock: day is different, because I dealing with a 76 year old man who has ideas like he 15 they coming fast and furious. Every day I learn something different. I a producer along with him, and Robert Glasper is involved. It really a collective with all of us. No good record has ever been done alone.