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Kamasi Washington Brings Fearless Movement to the Fitz

Singer and saxophonist looks at the audience from the stage while leaning into the microphone.
Kamasi Washington at the Fitzgerald Theater, May 11, 2024. Photo by Kathleen Ambre.

Last updated on June 1st, 2024 at 07:22 pm

Before attending last Saturday night’s show at the Fitzgerald, I knew there were few brighter stars in 21st-century jazz and few who put on a show as big as Kamasi Washington. As both statements would suggest, I had ample anticipation heading into the concert, an early stop on the saxophonist’s Fearless Movement tour.

Washington has been a star since his 2015 breakthrough album, the very aptly titled The Epic. He hasn’t been especially prolific since, with Fearless Movement only his third full-length release, but his albums and performances are often treated as true events. This is largely due to the scope and quality of the music. Like the shows, all three records are indeed ‘epic’ in their length, ambition, and often visceral intensity. Fearless Movement continues this, though with a few added stylistic wrinkles, namely adding a bit more hip-hop to the jazz-heavy sonic equation.

Photo by Kathleen Ambre.

Even as the band incorporated those new elements and played a setlist filled with music released just a week prior, the show had a familiar and triumphant feel. Working with a band full of old friends and regular collaborators likely played a role in that story, with vocalist Patrice Quinn, keyboard/synth wizard Brandon Coleman, and Washington’s horn-playing father Rickey among the players on stage.

Photo by Kathleen Ambre.

As a player and band leader, Washington himself is a virtuoso. The raw power he has playing his instrument, combined with his considerable dexterity, has always been a sight to behold. There’s a unique thrill to seeing a player operate at the peak of their powers. In many of the show’s best moments, he dialed the intensity to a proverbial 11, building towards and playing through epic climaxes. He shows this skill throughout his records, but hearing it in a mid-sized theater like the Fitzgerald was something else.

The band was also on fire. Coleman, in particular, stole the show several times, playing organ, synthesizer, and even vocoder on occasion.

Photo by Kathleen Ambre.

The rhythm section, propelled by the propulsive playing of bassist Miles Mosley, was incredibly locked in, an impressive feat given the amount of improvisation present in nearly every song. True to the album title, this propulsion and the musical energy onstage gave the music a kinetic feel. You simply could not stop moving.

Photo by Kathleen Ambre.

There were many softer moments as well, and the band navigated a wide dynamic range very effectively. In these softer and slower moments, the band was still performing at a high level, albeit in a different way. The change of pace benefited the run of the show tremendously, allowing for variety that kept things feeling fresh throughout the over 2-hour set. Closing the show was the final track on Fearless Movement, Prologue.” Its conclusion brought a palpable implicit consensus among the audience of faithful and recent converts: what they had witnessed was indeed something special.

Photo by Kathleen Ambre.

Written by Aaron Williams


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