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Baker's Dozen

Thirteen Prayers: Kamasi Washington's Favourite Albums
Paul Smith , May 18th, 2016 11:43

Before he embarks on a summer of touring following his excellent 2015 album The Epic, the saxophonist and bandleader makes some difficult decisions to give Paul Smith 13 albums that affected his musical approach


John Coltrane ‎– Transition
That's the record that probably affected me the most. Even now when I feel I need to be inspired, I go back to it. It's from an in-between era of John Coltrane's career; before he went full avant-garde he was in this middle hybrid space. The solos are like little miniature albums in themselves.

It really affected my whole approach to music, especially on the song 'Transition'. He poured his whole being into those solos. There are two solos on that song. It took me forever to get to the second one because I was so blown away by the first, I kept skipping back and listening to it again. When I finally realised there was a second and I could keep the song going, it was even more powerful than the first.

When I was really young, my dad started trying to get me to listen to it, but it was too heavy for me. I didn't get it. There was too much happening and I just couldn't hear it. Then I found my own journey to jazz and I got into Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter. I was 15 when I went to a Tower Records and I saw Transition on CD. I recognised it, so I bought it. I had a little Discman that I took on the bus home. At this point in my life, I could hear it and understand it to a much greater degree. And I was on the bus shouting: "OOHHH! YEAAHAHH! OH MY GOD!" I was tripping. I opened my eyes and people on the bus were looking at me like: "Is there something wrong with this dude?"

It's so dense. You can take just four bars and you study it. I think everyone has their own musical voice, a sound that kind of represents who you are. And this isn't exactly what I am, but it was so close to what I was hearing for myself. It was like John Coltrane had made a record just for me and I could listen to it every day.