Tag Archives: World Cafe Live

Exclusive: Kamasi Washington | Grand on the Musical Scale

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In a world of increasingly quick, fast, now, next… we can and easily do lose sight of some things that last longer and delve deeper. Many move on to the next before really appreciating the now. Theoretically, it seems something extraordinary will just simply rise to the top against lesser competition. But it often tends to be the opposite — with a distracted and perhaps media-exhausted audience.

Just look at how we find new music – blended in with a seemingly endless list of others one click or swipe away; as opposed to sitting down for a listen to one album by one artist, for a dedicated period of time. Let alone if music doesn’t follow a traditional 4/4 format and verse/chorus/bridge in a clean 3.5 min package. That is what for many of our ears we’ve perhaps accepted as comfort.

But for the likes of saxophone extraordinaire Kamasi Washington, no bother. He has succeeded in growing his talent immensely since a young age, and now pioneering an impressive career while doing what may be exactly the key: Not really paying attention to what conventional wisdom would say – rather making strides to explore and hone his craft the way his art form and fellow musicians inspire him to do so. And letting the track run on a little longer [10 + min at times], where he may come across a new found groove that would’ve remained caged and tethered. Ahhh, let freedom reign!

This approach, whether directly intentional or not, has frequently landed Kamasi in recording studios and on stages with many of music’s brightest stars, save no genre — including Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, and Broken Bells just to name a recent few.

Now in 2015, he has proudly presented his momentous effort, the critically acclaimed and aptly entitled album, “The Epic.” Take for example that Kamasi — and his crew “The Next Step or The West Coast Get Down” (who have been playing together since high school) have spent nearly five years putting together this album — which is a close to three-hour collection featuring  full choirs and string sections. 

I talked with Kamasi ahead of his upcoming show at World Café Live 8/27 (tix HERE) about The Epic, some experiences that have in turn formed his approach, and much more.



Aran Hart: What do you think it is in your musical education, exploration, or maybe just in your natural ear for music that lends itself to successfully trying out different varieties/forms of music?

Kamasi Washington: It’s probably mix of all that, my personality combined with how I like to live. I kind of get obsessed with whatever I’m doing. I was also an Ethnopsychology major (the psychology of races and peoples) in school. I studied jazz music growing up and got my first gig with Snoop Dogg… so it’s always been a mixture of things bringing me to where I am today.

AH: With a lot of music that listeners are exposed to today, there is a safe format/structure that many have come to expect when they press play… How does your approach and style differ? How do find a groove and bring all the moving parts together into what can be a track/song/album ?

KW: In my approach to music I didn’t ever really take to those conventions. With my career I spent so much time playing for other people and immersing myself into whatever their music was.  It was great for me because I learned and absorbed a lot from them, but it became hard to express my own thoughts, ideas, and concepts.

When I started into my own process, I was able to be much more uncompromising. It’s like a dog that’s lived in the yard for so long and you open the gate — it wants to run. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to run, I wanted to go, I didn’t want to really pay attention to other people. I was by myself and there were no rules…  no time punching … I could just make the music the way that it naturally came. It happens so often that musicians feel as if they don’t follow those conventions, that no one listen to their music, that no one will play their music, or no one will like their music. So they follow those guidelines because they think that’s what they need to do. I didn’t care. I was going to express myself how I wanted to express myself and not be so concerned about the outcome.

AH: I know you just talked about how you focused inward for your own music. Could you also talk about the importance of playing with other musicians — that collaborative process — and for you in particular how it has helped you learn and grow as a musician…

KW: It’s very important in general, not just in music, but in life… in order to expand your horizons. For me when I play music with someone else I try to totally immerse myself in their philosophy, and take that information and that philosophy back to my music. I often learn something new about my music by looking at it in a new way I didn’t know was there.

I remember in the band we had together with Snoop, people were seeing that they had this super detailed and different approach to hearing music and playing music… For example, there were different frequencies and tones people felt were relevant to them. Not just what key you were playing but what part of the beat you were playing on. We weren’t just talking about notes… we were talking about frequencies, and life organisms (haha). And really they were all related to what everyone else knew about each other. It gets deep…

AH: Given your music’s format and style, how closely does the live version of your music resemble its recording?

KW: Every time I play it’s completely different. Even if I tried to make it the same it would be completely different. When I was putting together my album we had a full choir, a full band, and we had all these plans. It’s a difficult thing but it’s a beautiful thing about the guys that I play with… We’re all really  tuned in to each other. And when you’re tuned in like that your spirit changes not just day to day, but even hour to hour. It won’t be the same tempo, won’t be the same place. So, the music is dictating for us to go different places. The slightest little change in feeling or space might, and usually does, totally change what you end up playing.

In terms of live versions — we just finished our first two weeks of our first tour [dates] — and basically every single night has been completely different. It’s cool though because it ends up being relevant to where we are. I don’t try to force it in any one direction… just flow with it, and we’re all open to responding and reacting to what it is, not what it was.


AH: Are you superstitious or ritualistic about any part of playing your music? Any kind of must haves or must do’s that you can share?

KW: No, not exactly. If anything I really try to clear my mind and relax by taking a moment or two to day dream. I’m around a bunch of musicians that all are pretty spacey and all over the place [haha]. So I find myself wrangling all the personalities to I guess … keep the chaos in order — but really the chaos is the order. I think I try not to do any one thing because there’s an energy and a spirit that you get from being free and you can’t really be free and do the same thing every time. I try to let myself be open to whatever’s going to happen at that moment.

AH: You have an impressive list of features and appearances where you’ve played with a lot of different people and sat in on studio sessions etc… Discuss the difference in the creative process for you now being the “leader” of your own project(s)?

KW: For someone else’s project you are figuring out what that other person or people have in mind as their vision — and what they want. And you know, sometimes it’s challenging and sometimes it’s not. Some people are articulate and can tell you want they want and some people can’t.

Making music for yourself is more trying to create that vision, which is a different feel and different process — it’s more introspective. It’s like looking in versus looking out. When I was making The Epic, it was very clear to me what the vision of this album was and what I was going to be trying to capture. There was a sound and an approach I knew that we as a group had been working on for a while.

As a listener, you kind of just listen. With this, I could really feel all the changes, the push and pull of what was happening. I was in it. Everything felt amplified, and bigger, and slower in a way. For me it became very contextual and I could see it the different colors and different textures, if you will.

AH: Two part question: Your music being mainly instrumental seems to  allow the listener to interpret a scene, rather than lyrics driving a topic… Do you see any movie scores or soundtracks in your future? And also, talk about the power of instrumental music compared to music that is lyric driven…

KW: As far as the movie score, yea that would be awesome. When I came up with the concept of The Epic I was definitely thinking about epic in the sense of “the story,” not “the size.” What inspired the whole album to be what it is, was that I had this vague kind of dream, which turns into this “wow story.” That story really encompasses what all the songs are about.

In regards to instrumental music… Music to me is a universal form of expression and to a degree sometimes words can get in the way of expression. Of course also sometimes lyrics can capture what the music is expressing. I feel like music in general doesn’t come from us, it comes through us. It comes to us as a seed and depending on what you do to it, it grows. So in that aspect, music is left in the hands of the writer and in the musician.

That’s why great songs differ from good songs, and good songs differ from bad songs. It’s like listeners all think, “Did the composer capture the essence of the music? And if so, how exactly did they capture that essence?” Basically, that’s going to dictate to the listener if they like the song.

Words add another layer — but also another opportunity to mess it up. Instrumental music is the purest form of expression. Once you bring words into the mix it can really amplify an expression — by either having your words match that expression, or you can mess it up by having words that don’t match.

With instrumental music you just feel it. It’s telling you something. You’re learning something. You’re feeling something and absorbing it. You’re communicating something without words… rather with a pure emotional connection.


AH: Lastly, where would one most likely find you in your hometown of LA? 

KW: I’m all over the place. I live in Inglewood so maybe catch me somewhere like Leimert Park. We have an ongoing residency at Piano Bar in Hollywood. Honestly, I’m a pretty active person, not a home body, so I’m all over the place… So wherever there’s something happening, there’s a good possibility I’m there!

::::::: See/Listen/Feel more from Kamasi Washington :::::::
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** Photos courtesy of Mike Park

215 Exclusive | Kat Dahlia Interview: A Story To Tell

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For many, only waiting until you are 24 years old to achieve success, let alone begin a career, is not too long at all. But for an artist long since tapped to emerge beneath the bright lights of the music industry it can feel much longer. All is relative in the end, and for Miami’s bright young music star – or blooming flower if you will – Kat Dahlia can tell you her story indeed includes a patient and at times trying chapter.

Whether canceling multiple tours due to a pseudo-cyst on her vocal chord, or overcoming personal hardships and a “toxic relationship” that have challenged her these past few years, Kat has dealt with the weeds and has gained an understanding that this is all part of “My Garden.”

Live on stage [see photos below], Kat shares her story and the many sides of her personality and musical flavor that she describes as “honest and diverse.” This provides the audience with a full and engaging show while displaying sharp vocal talents and a soaring voice alongside a talented group of young musicians representing Queens, NY, Toronto, Canada, and Cali, Colombia.

I sat down with Kat in the afternoon before her show at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia [Nov 24]. We chatted about what this long awaited ‘beginning’ means to her and the thought behind the title of her album and tour. I also learned a little bit more about who this talented, exciting storyteller is.

Chances are she’ll have a few more stories to tell after her tour…

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KAT DAHLIA  2014 U.S. tour dates preceding the release of  MY GARDEN, in stores January 13, 2015 and now available for preorder at iTunes, Amazon MP3 and Amazon. Anyone who preorders the album will receive four instant gratis tracks, including “Crazy,” “Gangsta,” “Mirror” and the Salaam Remi-produced “Clocks.” Fans who Shazam Kat’s “Crazy” can enter to win a pair of tickets for to catch her#MyGarden tour in the city of their choice. Spotify users can also enter to win tickets to see Kat live in concert by creating a #CRAZY playlist on @Spotify and sharing it with the tag #CRAZY4KAT.

To learn more about KAT DAHLIA, visit:

Official Website: katdahlia.com

Twitter: twitter.com/katdahlia

Facebook: facebook.com/katdahliamusic

Instagram: instagram.com/therealkatdahlia

Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/katdahlia

VEVO: youtube.com/katdahliavevo

Photo credits // Daniel Wooden

Upcoming Show: Kat Dahlia @ World Cafe Live 11/24

Vested in Culture/Epic Records artist KAT DAHLIA has announced 2014 U.S. tour dates preceding the release of her hotly awaited upcoming debut album, MY GARDEN, in stores January 13, 2015 and now available for preorder at iTunes (http://smarturl.it/MyGrdn), Amazon MP3 (http://smarturl.it/MyGdn) and Amazon (http://smarturl.it/MyGrden). Anyone who preorders the album will receive four instant gratis tracks, including “Crazy,” “Gangsta,” “Mirror” and the Salaam Remi-produced “Clocks.” Fans who Shazam Kat’s “Crazy” can enter to win a pair of tickets for to catch her #MyGarden tour in the city of their choice. Spotify users can also enter to win tickets to see Kat live in concert by creating a #CRAZY playlist on @Spotify and sharing it with the tag #CRAZY4KAT.

The singer-songwriter’s 17-city headlining #MyGarden Tour will be making a stop at World Cafe Live — before continuing on to intimate venues throughout North America. Fans can look forward to KAT DAHLIA performing popular favorites such as her current single “Crazy,” holding steady at No. 5 on iTunes’ Latin chart, and breakout record “Gangsta,” along with unreleased songs from MY GARDEN. Indeed, each night promises to be an electrifying experience not to be missed. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit katdahlia.com.

Everything just keeps getting crazier for KAT DAHLIA as the release of MY GARDEN approaches. To celebrate the launch of her album preorder and #MyGarden Tour, People en Español exclusively revealed the cover art for MY GARDEN and premiered the new video remix for “Crazy” on Monday, November 10. KAT DAHLIA is also Latina.com’s celebrity guest blogger for the month of November, allowing readers a chance to get to know her beyond the music by penning candid, insightful and honest entries. Check out her latest entry here.

To learn more about KAT DAHLIA, visit:

Official Website: katdahlia.com

Twitter: twitter.com/katdahlia

Facebook: facebook.com/katdahliamusic

Instagram: instagram.com/therealkatdahlia

Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/katdahlia

VEVO: youtube.com/katdahliavevo

Just Announced: Low at World Cafe Live Friday, June 21

Photo by Kate McCann

Minnesota-based band Low, consisting of Alan Sparhawk, Mimi Parker, and Steve Garrington, will be making a welcomed appearance to the downstairs area of World Cafe Live on Friday, June 21. Tickets will go on sale this Friday, April 19, starting at 10am. Tickets can be purchased here. $25.

The band formed in 1993 through husband and wife Sparhawk and Parker. Their music has been described as “slowcore,” but this is not a description the band really digs. They are better known for their sparse arrangements and dense, gorgeously harmonized vocals. It is somewhat difficult to categorize them; however,  Allmusic.com describes them in a way that I find incredibly appropriate: “…delicate, austere, and hypnotic, the trio’s music rarely rose above a whisper, divining its dramatic tension in the unsettling open spaces created by the absence of sound.”

Low released their most recent LP The Invisible Way just this past March. It was produced by Wilco’s frontman Jeff Tweedy.

The band was in the area in mid March to play an in-store concert at Main Street Music in Manayunk. The video for their live version of “Waiting” can be seen here.

A Fictional Conversation About “Heaven,” the New Walkmen Album

Because sometimes traditional reviews are boring…

Two men, 2000 and Chuck Wagon, are drinking beers at the Abbaye, a bar in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia.

“Hey, did you hear the Walkmen came out with a new album?” Chuck Wagon asks.

“I did,” 2000 responds. “It’s called Heaven right? They played one of those free at noon shows at World Café last week.”

“Yeah, Heaven. Have you heard it?”

“I have. It was streaming on NPR.”

“What do you think? I think it’s pretty awesome.”

“Yeah, I don’t know.”

“Come on. I thought you liked the Walkmen.”

“I thought so too. But I’m not so sure anymore. I want to like them. I really do. But there is something about them…I don’t know what it is. I just don’t think I like them. I don’t not like them. I think it’s more a case of me just not being a fan. Like, I wouldn’t choose to listen to them, but if they came on the radio, I’d think about it.”

“Well I think they’re great and I think Heaven is a solid album. Definitely their strongest album yet.”

“What’s so solid about it?”

“The sound is beefed up a little bit,” Chuck Wagon says. “It’s richer. And the vocals are more pure. They sound really smooth. It’s a very confidant sounding album.”

“Yeah see, it’s the vocals that are a sticking point for me.”

“They’re an acquired taste.”

“I love their drummer.”

“Oh he’s great. That song “The Rat”- he kills it on that tune.”

“Is there anything like “The Rat” on Heaven?”

“Not really. Although “Heartbreaker” is really good song. They’ve gotten more accessible. “Witch” is catchy as hell, which is something I don’t think I’ve ever said about a Walkmen song before.”

“I want to listen to it, but I just don’t know how badly.”

“It’s worth checking out. I think the title track could make you think differently about them. Overall, I’d give the album an 8 with the potential of becoming of a 9 after a few more listens. It’s an album that grows on you…in a positive way. Like the new White Rabbits album or that show Veep.”

“So the opposite of the War of Drugs album? I feel like that album has gotten worse over time.”

“Yes. Totally.”

“I’ll think about it. And Veep is hilarious. So is Girls.”

“Oh yeah, Girls is great. And you should listen to Heaven. No one sounds like the Walkmen. They have a resilient sound- like they don’t really care if people are listening and they’re just making music that they like and enjoy playing. It’s defiant, but not in a punk rock way. More like art school defiant.”

“Can I have your Honda Civic if I listen to it and don’t like it?”

“Yes. I would totally bet my Honda Civic.”

“Then we have a deal.”

“It needs gas.”

“Deal still stands.”

“Awesome,” Chuck Wagon says. “Another beer?”

“Of course,” 2000 says. “I’ve never understood the point of just getting one.”