Many references to uncommon suggestions have been spent for him, some even mentioning John Coltrane to describe his spiritual approach to African American music.
Californian, the 38-year-old son of a music teacher, Washington literally stirred the waters of jazz with his debut album, The Epic, released in 2015, really and truly epic. Not so much because it is triple (as much as 172 minutes of music) but because it is the result of a rare complexity, certainly hardly compatible with a debut. In it are syntheses - thanks to a magnificent group that includes not only a rich (10 elements) instrumental formation, but also a choir of 20 singers and a string ensemble of 32 musicians - multiple influences, from the most ordinary genres of the moment to precise references to a certain radical jazz of the 70s (for example, Pharaoh Sanders), from gospel to the classics of soul and even to Western academic tradition.
That of the Californian saxophonist is an original and broad-spectrum view of American music of today, together with a strong ability to retrace its history. In the background, the social issues of which this music is the ideal soundtrack.
The Epic was followed last year by an equally ambitious work, the double Heaven and Earth. In between, in 2017, Harmony of Difference, a multimedia installation for the Biennial of the prestigious Whitney Museum in New York. Obviously, also in the forefront are the repeated collaborations with Kendrick Lamar for his latest albums and with John Legend, to complete the traits of a not easily-definable identity.
Washington is not only a talented composer and a sophisticated creator of sound architecture, but is also an enthralling soloist of great musical culture, as the Umbria Jazz audience heard from his first performance at the festival three years ago.