Jazz hasn’t been a popular genre in the United States since its heyday in the ’50s and ’60s. After that generation of stylists moved past their respective peaks, it was a long time before a new crop of players filled their shoes. In the early years of the 2010s, though, a new underground began to percolate. It was nearly ready to explode into the mainstream.
Cities like Chicago, LA, New York, and London have had rich, exciting jazz scenes for decades, but they’ve mostly functioned on indie circuits, far away from mainstream venues and hyped Spotify playlists. Once Kamasi Washington and his band, the West Coast Get Down, emerged in 2015, though, it seemed like all eyes were on jazz once again. But this isn’t your parents’ jazz. Sure, it’d be impossible to pick up a saxophone and not be indebted to John Coltrane, but you wouldn’t say a band was inspired by The Beatles just because they like “Hey Jude.” In much the same way, artists like Kamasi Washington, Makaya McCraven, and Shabaka Hutchings are in conversation with, but in no way beholden to, the genre’s forebears. Each brings a thrilling new perspective, and as such, jazz is as exciting now as it’s ever been.