Would you believe that one of the trailblazing jazz musicians who have been leading the charge in getting hip-hop and indie listeners reconnected with jazz music in recent years, Kamasi Washington, has somehow never performed on a late-night TV show? At a time when seemingly every artist who’s gotten a fair Pitchfork review or been blogged about by East Coast music media gets tabbed to play for Fallon or Colbert or whatever, it’s a head-scratcher that Washington hasn’t gotten the call yet.
Not only does he have a decorated discography of some of the most accessible modern jazz albums since 2015, but he’s also been a go-to sax man appearing on albums by Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat, Flying Lotus, and St. Vincent. He also even scored Michelle Obama’s documentary, no small task.
The above rant comes with a big exhale tonight, though, when Washington will perform his brand new single, “The Garden Path” on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. In typical Kamasi Washington fashion, “The Garden Path” showcases his dexterousness as not only a star on the saxophone but as a composer and bandleader who empowers the talent around him. Breakneck drum beats, with big basslines and dizzying keys to boot, lay the groundwork for a collective explosion of sounds.
Washington only allows himself to shine once he’s given his players room to set the tone; he’s a selfless prodigy. He explained in a statement that the song’s furious rhythm is a function of our collective mind state: “The world feels turned upside down. There’s so much push and pull in every direction, from everyone you meet—no one knows what to think, who to believe, or how to approach life right now. No matter how smart you are, it’s hard not to feel blind.”
Listen to “The Garden Path” above and check out Kamasi Washington’s performance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon tonight on NBC at 11:35 pm local time.