Kamasi Washington’s show at UCSB’s Campbell Hall on Thursday, February 16, reminded me of seeing Parliament-Funkadelic live. Both bands are huge with huge sounds, but, what’s more, there’s a feeling of family, a bond that can only be forged in funk. (Indeed, Washington’s father, Rickey Washington, came to the stage to play.) Kamasi Washington is like a Sun Ra with jazz as his cosmic antennae, and his saxophone solos featured drawn-out exhalations of smooth energy and beautifully expressive bursts of humanity — through his horn, you somehow felt his soul. Speaking of soul, keyboardist Cameron Graves, who held it down on piano during epic pieces such as “Change of the Guard,” also contributed a work of his own, “The Soulness,” with some downright stanky keyboard that would make George Clinton proud. It was certainly cool to see a band of musicians who have known each other for so long —Washington grew up with many of these players — and to be invited into their groove.
By Paul Wellman