Spring is flowering, and The New Cool looks ahead to summer as ticket sales begin today for what's sure to be the biggest jazz event of the year. Lifelong musical innovator Herbie Hancock is co-headlining a tour with one of the hottest new voices in jazz today, saxophonist Kamasi Washington. The 10-date (so far) tour brings them to Marymoor Park in Redmond on Aug. 16, and you can expect that tickets will be gone long before then.
Emerging as the musical landscape was evolving at the speed of light in the '60s, Hancock's collaborations with Miles Davis led the way to his own modernism. The Headhunters, formed by Hancock in 1973, continue to be an influential starting place for forward-thinking jazz musicians today.
Hancock is bringing the same band he led at McCaw Hall in Seattle about a year ago. Veterans fill the rhythm section: James Genus on electric bass and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums. Young stars round out the band with the remarkable guitarist from Benin, Lionel Loueke, and multi-instrumentalist Terrace Martin on synths and saxophone.
During last year's concert, Hancock told the audience that he was working on a new jazz-hip-hop fusion album with guest rappers like Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamaar. Terrace Martin, who's produced for both of those hip-hop stars as well as Kamasi Washington, is reportedly hard at work producing this new Hancock album. I'm hoping to hear more news soon about what will be Hancock's first release in nine years.
Kamasi Washington is no stranger to New Cool fans, either. Crashing onto the scene like a comet in 2015 with his widely hailed debut album The Epic, Washington's massive follow up Heaven and Earth arrived last year to more acclaim. His extended, jammy, soulful music recalls John Coltrane's late career spiritual vibe, but stays in familiar grooves and never leaves the listener behind.
Expected to play in Washington's band as well as Hancock's, Terrace Martin has been an important collaborator for the young sax star in Los Angeles for a number of years. Washington gained early attention for his work on the Martin-produced hit album To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamaar just before the release of The Epic. Martin and Washington collaborated in a new group called Pollyseeds just a couple of years ago, which also featured keys whiz Robert Glasper.
To my ears, jazz is experiencing an exciting popular resurgence in recent years. The unquenchable Herbie Hancock set the table for this new movement, and players like Washington, Martin and Loueke are inspiring a new audience. It all comes together in Redmond this summer, so get your tickets now!
And don't forget, Saturday is Record Store Day. Support musicians by spending money on their music in any way you can, and show your support by visiting your favorite store (or stores) as often as you can. When you shop at your local record store, everybody wins!
The New Cool airs Saturdays from 3 to 5 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.