Anyone who doesn’t think jazz is as alive and vibrant as ever hasn’t heard Terrace Martin or Kamasi Washington. The two L.A. artists have been on a tear in recent years, playing important roles in Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly as well as their own projects including the blossoming of the incomparable West Coast Get Down collective. Martin and his group Gray Area recently released a live album entitled Gray Area Live at the JammJam, which featured several notable guests including Washington, Ben Wendel, Ronald Bruner, Jr., Maurice “Mobetta” Brown, Paul Cornish, and Joshua Crumbly. The project is also accompanied by a series of videos of the performance, showing the exhilarating vibe of the group as they perform in an intimate setting with a live audience.
“It was a beautiful exchange of energy to have people that close to you in the midst of the music. Because we do life music. We do human-being music. We’re trying to help heal souls, and heal ourselves,” Martin remarked in a statement about the performance. While those in attendance had the best view of the special event, the video of the song "Juno" captures the essence of the abundant musical talent and camaraderie as these masterful players carry on the communal legacy of black American folk music.
Each member of the group gets moments in the spotlight, with Martin and Washington leading the way with dexterous saxophone solos on soprano and tenor, respectively. Cornish and Crumbly follow, with each solo taking on a life of its own through the group’s effortlessly organic interplay. Burner, Jr. does his best to steal the show with an exquisite drum solo to close out the performance. While this may have been just another gig in these artists’ busy schedules, the video provides an important opportunity to appreciate the dynamic, perpetually evolving nature of this music as we enter a new decade.
Terrace Martin's Gray Area – Like at the JammJam is available now via Jammcard Music, in partnership with Sounds of Crenshaw and EMPIRE Distribution. The album is available to stream or download here.