In 2015, Kendrick Lamar solicited the technical genius of jazz master Kamasi Washington for To Pimp a Butterfly, and then again in 2017 for DAMN. In the months since, the Los Angeles-based saxophonist-composer, who has long been a fixture in the city’s experimental underground where he has shepherded a revival of psychedelic jazz fusion, was swept into the national spotlight. “It’s like now, no door is closed,” he says. “I can go to these small towns around the world, play whatever I want, and people are down to ride. That’s the dream.”
So far this year, the 37-year-old has worked on Florence + The Machine’s new album and is celebrating the release of his own sophomore LP, an ambitious double set titled Heaven and Earth (June 22, Young Turks). The album furthers his unorthodox approach to implanting jazz in a more contemporary context while relying on his encyclopedic knowledge of funk, calypso, gospel and the imaginative stylings of John Coltrane. As a result, he presents a vision born from years immersed in West Coast hip-hop.