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Season 1 - EP6

Kamasi Washington

One of the most inventive and respected voices in modern jazz, Los Angeles’ own Kamasi Washington performs his score to the documentary based on the former First Lady’s bestselling memoir.

Runtime - 47 mins

  • Performance
  • Essay
  • Gallery
  • Interview
  • Playlist

About the episode

When jazz titan Kamasi Washington was asked to score the documentary BECOMING based on former First Lady Michelle Obama’s autobiography of the same name, one of the first things he did was listen to the Obamas’ Spotify playlists, where the Motown-leaning soul and R&B conveyed a feeling he described as a “melancholy joy … sun shining through the rainy clouds.” The resulting score with its lush, hopeful theme “Becoming” has earned an Emmy nomination for Washington.

Support for this episode is provided by Lisa Field

When I Die I Will Go to Jazz

By Ishmael Reed

“Jazz is My Religion” (Ted Joans)

in memory of Clifford Jordan

As Ted would say Let them go to Heaven or let them go to Hell when I die I want to go to Jazz

Who needs Gabriel when we got Clifford, Clark, Lee and Bix You can add Thad to that distinguished mix and Prez and Billie sit on their thrones and their court wear porkpies gardenias and checkered vests And the tempo of the place is like Denzil Best With Mingus and Walton doing the chores on bass

A place where Satch is Avatar and Sun Ra, Gil and Count are resident Sages and among those on trumpet are “Fats” and “Hot Lips Page”

With “Klook” on drums and “Trane” on Axe a thousand years of Jamming for what more could I ask

Let them go to Heaven let them go to Hell when I die I want to go to Jazz Don’t surround me with cherubim with their golden locks a place where there’s no vodka on the rocks and spare me the diet of milk and honey in this high-up Lincoln Center where it’s all about the money

What use are Angels singing a cappella When I can have Dinah, Sarah and a scatting Ella A tisket a tasket I lost my yellow basket Mr. Paganini please play my melody I want to spend eternity in a place where they can swing it No need for a Paradise where anybody can wing it The folks in Jazz might not dress in white garments but they’re as natty and clean as a stylish Errol Garner Or Duke in his tails, gloves and black top hat and Saint Peter is Babs Gonzales saying welcome home cats

The residents of Jazz are bopping in the aisles As Diz and Bird swap four with Miles And spare me the sounds of celestial harmonics

I prefer something like Jazz at the Philharmonic Jumping with my boy Sid in the city!

When I die I will go straight to Jazz No need for me to encounter The Naz and Don’t send me off with No Razz A Ma Tazz some bars from” Round Midnight” will do just fine and lacking that some Earl Fatha Hines

Author Bio - Ishmael Reed is a novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, songwriter, and editor best known for his satirical works challenging American political culture. His most famous work, MUMBO JUMBO, has never been out of print since its publication in 1972. He has won the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, the renowned L.A. Times Robert Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Award. Ishmael has been nominated for a Pulitzer and has been a finalist for two National Book Awards. He founded the Before Columbus Foundation, which promotes multicultural American writing, and PEN Oakland, which sponsors the annual Josephine Miles Literary Awards. Ishmael is currently Distinguished Professor at The California College of the Arts and a Professor Emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley.

  • Kamasi Washington with full band for SOUND/STAGE episode 6

  • Kamasi introduces viewers, and an empty Hollywood Bowl, to his original score for BECOMING: An intimate portrait of Michelle Obama.

  • Brandon Coleman on the keyboards

  • Patrice Quinn on vocals

  • Conductor Geoff Gallegos

  • Sean Sonderegger on bass clarinet

  • Cameron Graves on piano

  • Kamasi Washington leads on tenor sax

  • Tylana Renga in the violin section

  • Ryan Porter on trombone

  • Yvette Devereaux on violin

  • Miles Mosley on bass

  • Dontae Winslow, trumpet

In conversation with

Kamasi Washington

Jazz giant Kamasi Washington discusses his approach to composing scores and what he’s been up to during quarantine.

Kamasi Washington

Listen Up

A Playlist of Sunshine Through The Rain

This week’s playlist draws its inspiration from the BECOMING score’s 1970s retro vibe. The tracks are easygoing, soulful, and uplifting in the “sunshine through the rainy clouds” kind of way that Kamasi Washington used to describe Michelle Obama’s own playlists. Most of the songs have long, languid intros, and every single one of them is interested in easing your troubled mind.

  • Credits

    An LA Phil Media Production Gustavo Dudamel Music & Artistic Director Directed by Charlie Buhler Support for this episode is provided by Lisa Field Featuring Kamasi Washington Kamasi Washington, tenor sax Rickey Washington, flute Ryan Porter, trombone Tony Austin, drums Ronald Bruner, Jr., drums Allakoi Peete, percussion Cameron Graves, piano Miles Mosley, bass Dontae Winslow, trumpet Sean Sonderegger, bass clarinet Tracy Wannomae, b-flat clarinet Jacob Scesney, alto sax Matt Haze, guitar Brandon Coleman, keyboards Patrice Quinn, vocals Taylor Graves, vocals Yvette Devereaux, violin Tylana Renga, violin Chad Jackson, viola Artyom Manukyan, cello Geoff Gallegos, conductor LA PHIL STAFF SOUND DESIGN Fred Vogler LIGHTING DESIGN Robin Gray Academy Lighting Consultants

    IATSE LOCAL 33 Kevin Brown, Master Carpenter Andy Kassan, Master Electrician Donald Quick, Property Master Michael Sheppard, Master Audio-Visual/Union Steward Kevin Wapner, Assistant Audio-Visual The stage crew is represented by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Moving Picture Machine Operators of the United States and Canada, Local 33 The Los Angeles Philharmonic thanks the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Department of Parks and Recreation who value assuring access to arts and culture in Los Angeles: BOARD OF SUPERVISORS Hilda L. Solis, First District Mark Ridley-Thomas, Second District Sheila Kuehl, Third District Janice K. Hahn, Fourth District Kathryn Barger, Fifth District and Chair PARKS AND RECREATION Norma E. Garcia, Director of Parks and Recreation and Regional Parks and Open Space District EDITED AT PARALLAX Editor: Guangwei Du Executive Producer: Graham Zeller Post Producer: Rebecca Rose Perkins Color Correction: Bossi Baker WEBSITE ToyFight