If you’ve heard Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly or Flying Lotus’ You’re Dead!, then you’ve heard Kamasi Washington. He’s one of the leading saxophone players and jazz musicians working right now, thanks to his spectacular and staggeringly ambitious debut album, 2015’s triple-disc The Epic. One of the more lauded efforts from last year, the album has put Washington in high demand not only with other respected artists, but also many of this year’s major music festivals—including Coachella, Bonnaroo, and, most recently, New York City’s the Meadows.
Performing with the Next Step, a band featuring lifelong friends like virtuous bassist Thundercat, Washington has been tearing it up on tour. One of his amplifiers actually began to emit smoke during his set at this past weekend’s Meadows showcase. Before the show, I sat down with Washington to discuss his recent successes, his musical background, and the joy he gets from simply making songs with friends at his side. Read our conversation—which has been edited and condensed for clarity—published over at Spin.com here.