Kamasi Washington – When I Create Interview

Kamasi Washington sat down with SMNTCS to tape his episode of ‘When I Create’ which turned out to be an introspective and revelatory journey. Kamasi opened up about what he feels when he’s on stage, when he feels the most free, and what creation is like for him. He also talks about two of his favorite records, Sun Ra’s ‘Space Is The Place’ and Ornette Coleman’s ‘The Shape of Jazz to Come.’ He expands on some of Sun Ra’s theories and tries to find similarities between free jazz and Malcolm X.

“A lot of the approach me and my band take comes from Ornette,” Kamasi explained. “[Coleman’s band] is creating the harmony as they go … Part of the reason … we plan ahead is because we’re afraid to fail, and there’s a degree of fearlessness you have to have to just go with the understanding that [the music] will be determined while we’re going.”

When we asked him to draw a connection between Malcolm X’s ideology and free jazz, without hesitating, he said, “They’re both trying to free people from the confines of their minds… African American music is relatively young, but, as it’s grown, it’s something we struggle with now: to follow the construct of what has been built before you, you don’t leave very much room for personal expression.”

Kamasi says that Malcolm and Ornette were both trying to fix systems that had been broken.

Watch Kamasi’s episode of Two Records here

“I feel the most free when I’m letting music flow through me … ironically enough, I don’t have control, but I feel free,” says Kamasi, discussing the space between his conscious and subconscious minds.

Fun fact: Kamasi plays a saxophone named “The Duchess” that his father bought in 1969.

Kamasi’s latest album, Heaven and Earth, is out now, and it’s amazing. Stream it here and watch the full interview below.

Filmed by: Sama’an Ashrawi & Andrew Litten
Edited by: Matt Winkler
Audio: Jasdeep Mann